Quad exercises that don't hurt my knees? (and calf help!)

  • Hi Everyone,

    I'm almost to the end of my first challenge and I feel like I'm hitting a wall with my lower body workouts, especially with my quads and calves.

    For quads - I do the leg press for my first 5 reps, but am struggling to find something for my last 12 reps that doesn't kill my knees.  The leg extension, lunges and squats are really hurting my right knee if I use enough weight that I actually reach a 10 in my quads.  Any suggestion for a final exercise I could do?

    Also, my calves gained strength very quickly.  I had to move on to machines within a few weeks because the dumbbell weights were getting too heavy for my arms!  Problem?  The standing calf machine crushes my back and shoulders if I'm using enough weight to feel the burn in my calves.  I don't think I've hit a true 10 in my calves for a couple of weeks now.




  • Britt for calves I use the leg press machine with my heels dangled over the bottom edge.  I get full range of motion for the calves.  It burns good.

  • Britt,

    I too have problems with my knees and unfortunately the exercises you listed are the best; I use a knee brace ($10 at Wal Mart) and it makes all the difference. Also, make sure to take glucosamine at least 2x a day. These two things have made a huge difference to me.

    As far a calves, have you tried using stairs? We have stairs at our gym and I bring a 5 and 10 lb weight along, and combine them in the end. Stand with you foot about halfway off the stair, heels hanging, then push them down as far as they'll go, and then all the way up to tip-toe.

    Hope this helps.


    "The joy of life is the fruit of discipline" -S. Randall

  • If your knee is starting to give you trouble, it may not be a bad idea to go see your doctor.  Last month I started to develop knee pain in both knees for the first time in my life (I am 32) and he set me up with an appointment with a physical therapist.  The PT gave me a series of stretches to do once or twice a day (takes about 10 to 15 minutes while watching TV) and after 2 weeks the pain was  gone, so I could at least finish up with leg extensions for my quads as my 10.

    Obviously I have no way of knowing if this would solve your problem as it did mine.  I wish you the best of luck!

    BTW:  I know that this is NOT recommended in the program, but for my hamstrings, I do the entire workout on the lying leg curl machine, doing both my 9 and 10 there.  There is no standing leg curl machine at my gym, and I cannot stand doing lunges or dead lifts.  I am sure I am missing out on some results, but I figure that since I will not do the other 2, this is better than nothing, and I still get an awesome burn.  I would look for more advice from others who are further than 4 weeks in (as I am) but if your knee just will not hold up to other exercises, perhaps this is a reluctant solution to your quad dilemma.

  • One thing I forgot to mention is that I agree JamesK about using a leg press machine for calves.  I use an Angled leg press machine for quads, and, if you do not release the lock, it also makes for an excellent calf workout.  Just push it up with your toes, hold for 1, and come back down slow.  Hope that helps!

  • I have difficulty getting much work out on my legs also. I work out at home, with dumbbells and very minimal equipment. I don't even have a bench (space limitations), but I do have an exercise ball. Other issues are a bad disc (L4-5), which  makes me hesitant to do much weight on deadlifts, and small tear in medial meniscus, which makes for tender knees. I have 2# ankle weights I can use, but beyond that, it's difficult to lift dumbbells with my feet!  ;-)

    I have some stretch bands, but haven't figured out how to use those to use in these exercises.

    Can anybody make some suggestions before another LBWO tomorrow?




    Exercising, eating right are hard. Being fat, out-of-shape and unhealthy is hard.

    Pick your HARD! 

  • I'm biased, but agree w/ the above writer.  You may need a PT.  You've mentioned knee pain and got several answers on how to treat it just from a symptom...pain.  That kind of scares me...

    Pain is not a diagnosis.  Pain is a sign from your body that something is not right.  It's an electrical signal from the injured area to the brain.  

    Questions like; where is the pain, how does the pain behave (although I assume it's pain in the front of the knee based on what is hurting it).  All of those questions and then an actual physical examination of the tissues of the knee; the joints, muscles/tendons, ligaments and meniscus need to be tested to identify what the source of the pain is.  

    Without knowing the actual source of the pain you are just shooting in the dark with prescribing a treatment plan (like what exercises you should or shouldn't do).


    Kevin Ford, PT

  • It is always best to see a doctor if your knees are bothering you.  Some things you can also do is to perform dynamic stretching and warming up if you are not already.  One thing I do is "no weight" lunges.  I just use my own body weight.  Also, before doing any weight lifting, I do cardio for about 5 minutes.  This gets the blood going which helps with flexibility and stiffness.

    The other thing you can do is to decrease the amount of impact you have on your knees.  For instance, if you run for your cardio everytime, consider substituting some of those runs with ellipticals to give your knees a break.  

    Sometimes knee pain can be from overuse and it may be nothing serious, but it can be difficult to tell the difference.  Regardless of whether there is something wrong with your knees or not, if you are going to work out you should be performing dynamic stretching and warming up before doing so.