Cardio exercise is a high-impact activity that can seriously backfire if you have bad knee problems. Cardio workouts with injury are always a gamble, even if you are otherwise young and healthy. Running or rope jumping with bad knees is not a good idea because of all the impact and pounding on your joints. Did you know that when you run, your body absorbs your weight x 7 every time you take a step? So if you weigh, say, 170 pounds— that would still be 1,119 pounds of pressure on your knees every single time your foot hits the ground.
Other exercises without impact and pounding, like cycling, still put a lot of repetitive stress on your joints, especially knees and ankles.
No joint stress cardio
To protect your knees from the impact and repetitive stress of cardio, here are three items you can easily work into your training routine. You will tone your muscles, burn calories and keep your knees in good shape.
1. Battling ropes
Battling ropes need to be long and thick, the more the better. Loop them around something stable that will not move and then take each end in your hands, pulling while doing the exercises. A good example of battling ropes cardio is rope slams— where you slam each end of the rope up and down on the floor, making waves. These exercises are quite aggressive for most people, so start slow and move up to longer sets as you feel more comfortable with it.
Cardio kettlebell exercises involve a lot of swinging and snatching. You can effectively strengthen the muscles in your hamstrings, glutes and lower back, but putting no stress whatsoever on your knees. Kettlebells come in different sizes and weights, but it is always a good idea to start slowly. Try 44 or 53-pound units and then move on to heavier ones as you see fit.
Sledgehammer exercises, or sledgehammer swings, involve an eight-pound and a car tyre. The bigger the tyre, the better. You swing the sledgehammer hard against the tire, hard and rhythmically, in circular motions. Do a number of sets on each side (Twenty is good to start with). There will be no impact on your knees, but your pectorals, upper body and biceps will benefit tremendously.
Each of these three exercises can be part of a workout routine, or be the routine itself. You can include them as needed in your usual training, and feel all the benefits of cardio exercise without causing further injury to your knees.