Knee pain is more common than you might think, but what really sucks is when it starts interfering with your everyday activities, preventing you from doing what you want. However, if one of those ‘wants’ happens to be ‘building an awesome butt’, you’re in luck, because in this article I’m going to run you through some great butt exercises for bad knees.
Weak Knees? You Can Still Get A Great Butt Workout
Many people can get pain in the knees when doing standard butt exercises like the squat and lunges. This can make training your glute muscles hard, especially if you don’t know many other glute exercises (I know I didn’t know of many butt exercises at all before I started this site!), and in particular, glute exercises that are easy on the knees.
If you have weak or temperamental knees but still want to get a great butt through exercise, don’t worry! I’ll be sharing some knee-friendly butt exercises with you further on in this post, so you don’t have to miss out on the benefits of having a great butt.
What Causes Knee Pain When Working Out Your Glutes?
Let’s first take a quick look at why your knees can start hurting when you do butt exercises.
I myself have a bit of a dodgy right knee, that often can get irritated for no apparent reason. When this happens I get a bit of swelling and quite literally cannot bend my knee much past 90 degrees without discomfort. This used to kill my butt-building workouts dead in the water (before I learnt about the knee-friendly moves I’m going to show you later).
Now I know better, I can continue to work out my glutes even when I do get a flare up of my knee, so I’ll share with you what has worked for me.
The first reason why I find that knee pain or discomfort happens when doing butt workouts is that many of the traditionally popular butt exercises heavily involve the legs, and in such a way that puts a good deal of pressure/stress on those poor knees. Think squat, lunges, deadlifts, or sometimes also any other exercises that involve a deep bend in the knees with a lot of force applied.
Bad Form = Knee Pain
One of my theories is that knee pain occurs when you have bad form, or are trying to complete a movement that your body is not ready for yet. For example, if you are not accustomed to squatting, and then try and do deep squats, with weight, you are probably going to hurt your knees. Proper form is essential, and even more so if you are intending to make exercises more challenging by using weights.
Weak Glutes and Leg Muscles Can Contribute to Knee Pain
Another reason why knees can complain when doing butt exercises is that the supporting muscles may be weak. There are a whole range of muscles which support your knees and allow them to ‘track’ correctly, and trouble-free operation involves correct recruitment and use of all of the surrounding muscles.
Your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes (!) are all big players when it comes to healthy knees, so the good news is that the more your train your butt and legs, the more you should theoretically be helping support those knee joints. Strengthening these muscles actively help to support the knee joint when performing daily tasks and other movements.
Another muscle that is essential for correct movement, AKA ‘tracking’ of the knee is the Vastus Medialis Oblique (or VMO for short). This muscle is responsible for stabilising the kneecap and knee joint in general. If you find that your knees are quite troublesome, I would suggest checking out the video below to learn about where the VMO is located and how to exercise it. This should allow you to gauge if your VMO is working correctly, and strong VMO muscles will help you to achieve less knee pain when tackling the butt exercises we’ll be looking at.
Butt Exercises That Don’t Hurt The Knees: The Theory
In my experience, the main thing that helped me when trying to still get a good butt workout even though my knee(s) were playing up is to choose butt exercises that don’t load up or put unnecessary stress on the knees.
A lot of the butt exercises that I found were easy on the knees are floor exercises, done from a lying or horizontal position, rather than standing exercises like squats. With standing exercises you have your entire body weight on top of your knees, while with the floor exercises that is completely removed. Unloading the knees like this can give some good relief but still present a challenge to your butt if you are doing the right moves. I can just hear my knees sighing in relief even just thinking about it!
What Are The Best Butt Exercises For Bad Knees?
So without further ado, let’s get into it. This list is some of the exercises that I would recommend for those with weak knees that can often complain! A lot of this is based on my own experience and what I have found works for me.
Most of them are floor exercises. If you do find that kneeling hurts your knees, you could try using a pillow under the kneeling knee to cushion yourself a little. If that’s no good, then you might want to try the moves that don’t require kneeling, like supermans, lying side leg raises, or kickbacks from a standing position.
All of the below exercises have been featured on our Best Butt Exercises page, so if you see one that takes your fancy, just click through on the name to see the full post about how to do the exercise correctly. Easy!
Knee-Friendly Butt Exercises, Straight Leg
A definite favorite of mine, this move is great for when I have sore knees as it removes the load from the working leg. The higher you lift your leg, the more you’ll feel it in your butt.
Try theses kickbacks initially without any cable machine, just using bodyweaight. They are basically the same as the straight rear leg lifts, but if you do them on a bench as shown you can get a bit more range of motion that will help you target those glutes. You can also do these standing if you find that the kneeling position hurts your knees.
Leg raises to the rear really target the butt and keeping your leg straight should keep any unnecessary stress off those knees.
A butt move that will also tone your abs and core (or maybe that should be the other way around!), adding lateral kicks to a plank is a great way to turn it into a butt-blasting move.
Lying side leg raises will work your butt and inner and outer thighs. Goodness!
Supermans are very unlikely to bother knees as they are done with straight legs and virtually no loading through the knee. Great for the butt and back.
Knee-Friendly Butt Exercises Which Involve a Bent Knee
The following exercises do involve a little bit of bend in the knee of the working leg, but the important thing is that you’re not loading up the knee joint much at all. I’ve found these not to trouble my knee when it flares up, but if you do experience trouble with the amount of bend, then you can also try them while limiting the amount of bend in the knee joint.
Donkey kicks are a variation of straight leg raises. Hopefully they shouldn’t trouble your knees!
This move is a real butt burner, seriously. There’s basically no loading of your knees so you shouldn’t have pain unless you have some mobility or flexibility issues with bending your knee as shown.
I love clamshells as they work into the sides of your butt, which is often hard to target! You can do these with or without a resistance band (shown with the band in the image below). I’d suggest starting without and just focusing on slow and controlled movement just to perfect your form first.
This move doesn’t look like a butt exercise at first, but if you can really focus on engaging your glutes as you extend out your leg, you will feel it in your butt, and at no expense to your knees!
Hip extensions are great because they are another floor exercise where your knee is not loaded up from your bodyweight. Once you’ve got the hang of these, you can add a little resistance by using a resistance band.
Low Knee-Stress Butt Exercises
I find that the following exercises may cause a little bit more stress in the knee than the previously mentioned exercises, but are still very achievable for me when I have a sore knee or knees.
With the monster band walk, the key is to keep the squat very shallow to keep the stress loading off your knees. You just want a slight squat in order to engage the glutes the whole time you are taking your sideways steps.
I find glute bridges place a tiny bit of stress on my knees, but because there’s not really much load I can still use this exercise when my knees are complaining. The good thing about the glute bridge is that it will also work your hamstrings which can help stabilize those knees. The one-legged version of glute bridges I find to be a little too stressful on my knees so is definitely out when I’m having a flare up.
“No-Squat” Butt Workouts Can Still Target Your Glutes!
I hope the above list has given you some ideas and options for butt exercises that you can do even if you have weak or grumpy knees! As you can see, you don’t have to squat to get a great butt.
I also found this video workout below which is a ‘no-squat’ butt workout if you prefer following along to workout videos. It does include some one-legged glute bridges though which can be a little hard on the knees in my opinion, so if you have trouble with those, just do the basic glute bridge version.
Weak Knees Doesn’t Mean You Have To Have a Weak Butt!
So there you have it, you can still get a great butt workout even if you have bad knees – it’s just a matter of choosing exercises that won’t irritate your knee joints and will still target your glutes. I hope I have given you some ideas for exercises today, and would love to hear from you if you think I’ve missed any!
Do you have weak knees and has it ever stopped you from working out your glutes? Let me know your story by leaving me a comment below!