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10 Best Alternatives To Lunges For Bad Knees

Alternatives To Lunges For Bad Knees

You can’t spell LEGENDARY without ‘Leg Day’, and as cheesy and as corny as that sounds, we’re basically emphasizing the importance of training your legs.

We know that real friends don’t let their buddies skip leg day, and we all know how tough training your legs can be, yet it’s important to dig deep and really push yourself when working your legs as the pros outweigh the cons considerably.

Training your legs may be tough, but it’s worth it in the end, as not only do you get to build yourself a set of big and powerful legs, but they will also assist you with your training, plus they’re functional and will carry over into the real world.

Lunges are a fantastic exercise for working the legs, but they aren’t the only leg exercise that you should be performing.

If you want to switch up your leg training, here’s a look at 10 of the best alternatives to lunges for bad knees.

10 Best Lunge Alternatives:

Okay, so, if you are now ready to start training your legs and you want to get the benefits of lunges, without any of the risks or drawbacks with regards to the knees, here are several awesome alternatives.

1. Step Ups:

The first alternative that we have for you today is step-ups.

The mechanics behind step-ups are very similar to those of lunges, except for the fact that this exercise is much more forgiving on the knees.

By stepping upwards as opposed to forwards, you place far less strain upon the knee and the joints.

Here’s a look at what to do if you wish to perform step-ups:

  • Start off by standing in front of a step, or a low bench with a flat and sturdy surface.
  • Next, holding your arms down by your sides, step up with your right leg, and then your left leg onto the step.
  • Now, carefully step backward off the step, one foot at a time, and repeat for as many reps as needed.
  • You can make the exercise harder by holding a dumbbell in each hand.

2. Single Leg Presses:

Single Leg Leg Press

Another great alternative that we need to talk about today is the single-leg press.

If you can’t do lunges because of knee issues, hip issues, or any other reasons, then single-leg presses serve as an amazing substitute.

This exercise not only works your hamstrings but will also help to improve your knee stability too.

Here’s what to do:

  • Begin by lying or sitting in a leg press machine as you would normally.
  • Be sure to select a lighter weight than you would ordinarily use, as you are only pressing with one leg, rather than both.
  • Once you’re securely in the seat, place the flat of your foot on the plate, ensuring your other leg remains clear of the footplate.
  • Now, press the plate with your foot and un-hook the safety bars with your hands.
  • Slowly bring your leg down towards your body and then press the plate again, making sure NOT to fully extend your leg and lock out your knee.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed, lock the machine in place when you’ve finished, and repeat with the opposite leg.

3. Goblet Squats:

You cannot talk about leg training and not talk about squats.

There are many different squat variations out there to choose from, yet as far as alternatives are concerned, goblet squats are one of the best.

Goblet squats place less stress on the joints, and you can add more resistance and lift more weight when performing them.

Here’s a look at what to do:

  • Start the exercise off by holding a kettlebell or a dumbbell up to your chest.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing outwards slightly as if they’re facing 11 and 1 on a clock face.
  • Now, distributing your weight evenly through your feet, slowly squat down like you’re sitting down in a chair.
  • Hold at the bottom of the squat for a second and then slowly stand back up, making sure to keep the torso straight and your head up at all times.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.

4. Box Squats:

Thought we’d finished with squats?

Absolutely not, not when we’re talking about leg training.

The next lunge alternatives that we have for you today are box squats, and they’re very easy to do.

Performed like a regular squat, the idea behind box squats is that you don’t squat down as deep as you would normally because you squat until your butt is sat on a box or bench.

Box squats help to focus on explosive power, plus they’re great for ensuring that you control the weight easier than you would with a regular squat.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start off in a squat rack with a box or a bench placed behind you, allowing you to sit down on the edge as you perform the exercise.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, with your toes pointing outwards slightly.
  • Load a barbell with a weight you’re comfortable with, place it across your upper traps, get your grip comfortable, and then lift and un-rack the weight and step backward.
  • Now, bracing your core and keeping your head up, slowly squat down until you’re sitting on the box or edge of the bench.
  • Stay seated in this position for a second and then explode upwards to a standing position.
  • Repeat for as many repetitions as your program calls for.

5. Single-Leg Box Squats:

Single-Leg Squat To Box | Exercise Guide

While we’re on the subject of box squats, another awesome alternative that you can perform on your next leg training session is the single-leg box squat.

Here’s how to perform this unilateral leg exercise:

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart, placing a bench or a suitable gym box directly behind your heels.
  • Now, slowly lift up your right leg and sit down on the box, making sure to keep the right leg off the floor for the duration of this portion of the exercise.
  • Shifting your torso forwards a little, stand back up, pushing into the floor with your left foot.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed and then switch and repeat with the opposite leg.

6. Sled Drags:

Sled Dragging! (For Massive Glutes and Hamstrings)

Ah, a non-squat alternative to lunges.

Here we have the sled drag.

This is a very easy exercise to perform, but it will really work your legs while also doubling as a great source of cardio.

Here’s what to do:

  • While wearing a suitable harness or weight belt, attach the weighted sled so that it is attached to your back.
  • Now, simply walk forwards and drag the sled, making sure to really drive with the legs, keeping your torso straight.
  • Pull the sled until you’ve reached your desired distance, or until you have fatigued, and repeat the process again.
  • You can also push the sled if you wish, or add more weight if you want more resistance.

7. Single Leg Deadlifts:

Single-Leg Deadlift - Glute Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Whereas deadlifts are often considered exercises for the back, making a slight adjustment with your stance can instead isolate the legs. This is exactly what a single-leg deadlift does.

To mimic the effects of a lunge, try performing single-leg deadlifts instead.

PS: Tsingle leg deadlift is a fantastic exercise to get a bigger butt!

Here’s how they’re done:

  • Kick off the exercise by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, with more weight on your right foot.
  • Slightly bend the right leg and lean forwards slowly until your chest is parallel with the ground.
  • Now, allow your rear leg to lift off the floor, making sure to keep it in alignment with your torso.
  • Return to a standing position by slowly lifting your torso back to a vertical position.
  • Repeat this movement for your desired number of reps and then switch legs and repeat again.

8. Drop Down Single Leg Squats:

Consider this exercise as a reverse step up.

Rather than stepping up onto a bench or step, you begin on a step and lower yourself down instead so that you can work the same muscles as you would with lunges.

Here’s what to do:

  • On a secure step or bench, carefully stand on one leg, holding your arms in front of you for balance.
  • Now, bend your supporting leg, making sure to keep the other leg straight and extended slightly in front of your torso.
  • Now, slowly descend down as low as you’re comfortable with or until you can touch the floor with the heel of your other foot, making sure not to allow your supporting knee to travel past your toes.
  • Slowly stand back up and repeat for as many reps as needed.
  • Switch legs and repeat once again.

9. Wall Squats:

Forward Wall Squat

Thought that the only way to perform squats was with a barbell?

Think again.

Turns out you only need a wall.

Wall squats or wall sits are tougher to do than they sound, but they work incredibly well for anybody looking to replicate the effects of lunges.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start off by standing with your back pressed firmly against a wall.
  • Next, slowly bend your knees and lower your butt down until your knees form a 90-degree angle.
  • Wall squats are an isometric exercise which means that you perform them for time, as opposed to reps, so hold for as long as you can manage.
  • Repeat for as many rounds as your program calls for.

10. Split Squats:

Body Weight Split Squat

Last, but certainly not least, we have split squats.

A variant of a static lunge, with this exercise you remain static in a split stance.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start off by taking a dumbbell in either hand and placing your right foot toe-side-down onto a flat bench, keeping your left leg straight.
  • Now, slowly bend both knees and bring your right knee down until it grazes the floor, making sure to keep your foot firmly on the bench.
  • Hold and squeeze and then slowly stand back up.
  • Repeat for as many reps as needed.

More About Lunges?

Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly sporty or active, you’ll almost certainly have performed a lunge, even without knowing.

Every time you kneel down to tie your shoelaces, you’ll have performed a variation of a lunge.

Failing that, every single person you’ve ever seen propose to their partner, either in person or on the TV, has performed a lunge when they get down on one knee.

A lunge is a unilateral exercise in which you lunge forwards by placing your front standing leg/knee at a 90-degree angle, and bending your rear knee so that it touches the ground.

You then either repeat the movement over and over again with the same leg before switching sides, or you alternate and perform one with the right, and one with the left, and repeat like that.

What Makes Lunges So Beneficial?

Alternatives To Lunges For Bad Knees

There are heaps of popular leg exercises out there *cough, squats and leg press, cough* yet there are also ones that don’t always get the recognition and attention that they deserve, and lunges are certainly up there.

Lunges are great because they work legs individually, making them ideal for balance and for coordination.

They’re also great for mobility and they also help to add muscle mass and definition to the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

The only real downside to lunges is the fact that they put a great deal of strain and pressure upon the knees, which is why sometimes it pays to find suitable alternatives.

If you want to vary your leg training, it’s important to work the muscles in different ways and to perform different exercises.

Final Thoughts:

So, hopefully, the alternatives to lunges for bad knees that we’ve listed for you today are as useful as they are intriguing.

If you want to work the legs and you want some exercises to do that are similar to lunges and just as effective, any of the above will make a worthy addition to your leg workouts.


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