Are Lunges Really Bad For Your Knees? Here's The Truth

Couple doing dumbbell lounges at the gym.
Shutterstock | 2181548
Health

Lunges are a terrific exercise for sculpting your hips and thighs but are they good for the knees? As it turns out, lunging is an excellent way to maintain healthy joints but only provided they're done correctly.

A twinge of pain in your knees is usually an indicator that you're not performing lunges the way you're supposed to, certified personal trainer Stephanie Mansour writes in an article for Today. Keep reading to learn your way around a pain-free lunge that will help you stay in shape.

Here's Why Lounges Are Good For Your Knees

Man doing lunges at home.
Shutterstock | 178456

The benefits of doing lunges go far beyond the realm of fitness. This leg workout strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips, and core muscles, which only spells good news for joint health and mobility.

"Lunges target extensor muscles in your lower body that also help stabilize the hip and knee joints," says Mansour, who is also a yoga and Pilates instructor and a weight-loss coach for women.

Sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl agrees that lunges (as well as squats) are ideal for keeping your joints in top shape -- especially if you have achy knees.

"A lot of studies have looked at quad muscle strength and knee arthritis and found the stronger your muscles, the less achy the knees are."

Lunges & Osteoarthritis

Artist's rendition of knee pain.
Shutterstock | 2495788

Because strong muscles lead to springy, pain-free joints, lunging is particularly useful in preventing knee pain and injury -- so much so that experts recommend it even to people suffering from severe knee conditions, such as osteoarthritis.

"I typically recommend lunges because this simple exercise works all of the important muscle groups around the knee," Dr. Matthew Harb, an orthopedic surgeon at The Centres for Advanced Orthopaedics, tells Popsugar.

"We know that building strength and endurance, as well as preserving range of motion in the knee, are paramount to long-term knee health."

Lunges & Knee Pain

While you should expect to feel the burn after a good lunging session, the exercise should generally be a painless one.

According to Jessica Mazzucco, New York City certified fitness trainer for The Glute Recruit, feeling pain during lunges is a sign you're not doing them correctly.

Perhaps the most common mistake with this type of exercise is not minding your angles. Both knees should be bent at a correct 90-degree angle -- not more, not less.

Common Mistakes When Doing Lunges

Woman doing an incorrect lunge.
Unsplash | Sergio Pedemonte

"Lunges at extreme angles can put added stress on the joints, and cause pain in the knees," says Mazzucco. "If you are leaning too far forward, your knee can't bend properly to a 90-degree angle, which can lead to knee injury and make balancing hard."

"Also, if your hips are weak, your knee may push out past your toes because your hip muscles don't keep the knee in line. This puts added pressure on the knee, resulting in pain and/or injury."

Mansour further elaborates on the bad practices that typically lead to painful lunges, cautioning that a too narrow stance can throw off your balance. She also advises paying attention to how you align the back foot and suggests pressing down through the heel of your forward to push yourself back up.

"You should be balanced on the toes of your back foot and the knee should lower directly beneath the hip to create another 90-degree angle."

How To Do A Correct Lunge

Woman doing lunges at the gym.
Shutterstock | 187633

As with any type of exercise, the key to performing a correct lunge is to get off to a good start.

Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a big step forward with one leg and lower your body until your thigh is parallel with the floor and your other knee almost touches the ground.

Hold the lunge for 15-30 seconds, then return to the starting pose and repeat the exercise with the other leg. Perform five to 10 lunges with each leg.

Watch the video below for extra guidance and clarity.