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5 Squat Alternatives for Weak Knees (That You Can Do at Home)

By Robert Turp December 21, 2021 Health and Fitness

I know the feeling… you’re filled with motivation to start exercising again but soon discover every popular workout seems to include so much squatting, jumping and other high impact exercises.

If you’ve got weak knees, there’s no getting around these sorts of movements; they’re simply a no-go.

Luckily, there are alternatives and ways to follow lower impact exercises that will still help strengthen your muscles, without the associated pain or discomfort you may experience in your knees, hips or ankles with squats.

If you’re looking for alternatives to squats, you’re in the right place. Below, I outline 5 lower body exercises that target the same muscles but don’t put as much pressure on your knees or joints.

Glute (Hip) Bridges

Glute (hip) bridges are a fantastic low impact exercise that primarily target the glutes (your “derriere”, to put it another way).

If you find yourself sitting a lot of the day, activating the glutes is really important to keep these muscles strong. Weak glutes can lead to all sorts of problems such as lower back ache.

Glute bridges involve laying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor. Hold this for 10 seconds (or as long as you feel comfortable), before lowering your hips back to the floor. Repeat this a few times, depending on your fitness level.

Your glutes are doing most of the heavy lifting, so your knees won’t take the same sort of pressure like they do in squats.

Holding the glute bridge will also help improve your overall core stability too.

Good Mornings

Good Mornings target the glutes and hamstrings, as well as the lower back. They can be performed with weights, or just as a bodyweight movement.

Good Mornings are another great exercise you can do throughout the day… even just waiting for the kettle to boil could be time spent strengthening those legs!

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and knees ever so slightly bent. With your chest upright and back straight, lean forward as far as you feel comfortable. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to raise your torso back to an upright position.

Step Ups

Steps Ups may appear quite basic, but they are really effective at developing more power from your lower body. This sort of exercise also has clear benefits for the real world, i.e., getting up and down the stairs easier.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in front of a step (or raised surface). The higher the step, the more challenging it is. Push down on one foot to provide balance and lift the other foot onto the step. Push down on the foot standing on the step to straighten your leg and lift your remaining foot onto the step as well. Lower yourself back down and repeat.

There are lots of ways to vary up this movement, from holding a dumbbell or using ankle weights, that also increase the difficulty.

Side Laying Leg Raise

The side laying leg raise falls under the category of “hip abductor exercises” which are perfect for strengthening the outer hips. This can help avoid the knees leaning inwards, as well generally supporting better posture and alignment.

This guide on banded hip abduction exercises is a great resource on how to use a resistance band with abduction exercises to increase difficulty.

Lay on your side and gently raise your leg up and down, hinging at the hips. Repeat on the other side. You’ll find you don’t need to raise your leg too high for you to feel the muscles working.

Walking

Walking is a great exercise, and it can be easily adapted to your level of fitness. Walking naturally engages the whole lower body, helping to target the same muscles as doing squats.

To increase difficulty, use ankle weights for extra resistance during a walk.

Similarly, try Nordic Walking if you enjoy walking. There are lots of clubs you can join, and the use of poles helps engage more muscles during your daily stroll.

Final Thoughts

Squats are a great way to build lower body strength, but if you experience knee or hip pain whilst doing them, this list of alternative exercises could help you create effective lower impact workouts.

Not all of them may be suitable for your specific circumstances, but even if just one works for you, it could help you see tangible improvements in your legs and lower body.

What is your experience with squats? Are they painful for your knees? Would you be open to doing these alternative options? Do you have any exercises that are friendly on the knees? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Author

Robert Turp is Co-Founder of Fitness Drum, the home of free virtual fitness challenges and exercise programs designed to make exercise and physical movement intuitive, fun and engaging. Follow a challenge each month to keep active. From beginners to advanced, there’s something for everyone.

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