If you have a history of knee injuries, a cardio workout can be a real problem. Jumping rope and running are the most troubling because of the repetitive pounding. When you are running, with every stride your body will absorb around seven times your weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, that means that your knees will be absorbing 1,400 pounds of pressure each time your foot strikes the ground. Bad knees simply cannot stand up to that kind of abuse for very long.
So what to do? It can be a real challenge if you want to have a cardio workout. Well, riding a bike is one option, because it does not cause the same kind of pounding. But it does still create a great deal of repetitive stress which will result in more wear and tear on joints that are already bad. So what then?
Good news, there is actually a healthy cardio routine that works without stressing your knees. Read on to find out about your options!
There are numerous fantastic exercises you can do using battling ropes and you will not stress your knees. Just a couple of years ago, these battling ropes were next to impossible to find, but today the majority of gyms have at least one set.
It is best if these ropes are a minimum of 30 feet long. 40 feet is even better. They should also be 1.5 to 2 inches thick. Take one end and loop it around an immovable object that is very sturdy. Then pull the entire slack out and grab both ends while you position yourself in an athletic stance.
You are going to need a stopwatch, which you will use for the timed rounds with the battling ropes. For almost everyone, 20 seconds of work will be extremely tough. After your 20 seconds are past, you can rest for 20 to 60 seconds prior to moving on to your next set.
Rope slams are an excellent variation because they are so aggressive. Grab both ends of the heavy rope and then hard slam it up and down.
You do alternate waves by rapidly moving your arms up and down, which creates waves with the rope. As your left arm is going up, your right arm is going down, and then as your right arm is going up your left arm is going down.
In-and-out waves can also be done. Just move your arms out away from your body and then rapidly bring your hands back together in a rhythmic fashion.
If you wish to incorporate these three styles into a single workout, you can do them in a circuit fashion. Begin by doing slams for 20 seconds, then take a brief rest before you move on to alternate waves, take another brief rest, and end with the up and out waves. Repeat the circuit 2 to 5 times for a short but very intense conditioning session.
To do this correctly, you need an eight-pound sledgehammer and an old tire. The tire doesn’t have to be anything special. You can usually find a spare tire at the auto wreckers. That said, if you can get one of those great big tractor tires, that’s even better.
For the first set, take your left foot and place it near the tire, putting your right foot back. With your right hand over your left, get a good grip on the sledgehammer, and then swing it up over your right shoulder in a circular motion, continuing the movement rapidly downward, striking the tire fast and hard. Repeat for 15-20 reps.
If you want, you can do timed sets. You’ll just need a stopwatch. Begin with 20 seconds on and 40 seconds off for 6-8 minutes, then you can work on increasing your time.
Kettlebell swings and snatches
Kettlebell swings will strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and your lower back, while sparing your knees. It is crucial that you have correct hip hinging if you want to be powerful and athletic. The kettlebell swing does an excellent job of teaching this movement pattern, which is necessary.
Most guys could start out with a 44-53 pound kettlebell, and before long you can work up to weights that are significantly heavier. 20-40 reps and 3-5 sets will be adequate. Make sure that you keep a flat back throughout. You need to push your butt back when you go down and then drive your hips forward as you come up. Your arms are just hooks and all of the power should be generated by explosive hip extension. Do not squat down.
Kettlebell snatches will not stress your knees and will help build stable shoulders. Use a 26-35 pound kettlebell for this exercise. Set a timer for 5-6 minutes and do as many reps as you can, alternating arms for each set. In your training journal, record how many you did and then next time, try to improve upon your old number.
Each of these “no knee stress” cardio forms can be done as finishers after you have finished your main strength training session. You can also do them separately as a conditioning workout on your off days. Either way, they are going to help you get into terrific shape while your knees feel good.