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Risk of Knee Injury

Joe Fleming provides advice on the common gym mistakes that increase your risk of knee injuries.

Every year, millions of people end up in hospitals and doctor's offices because they have injured their knees. Some of these injuries stem from random accidents, and sports cause others. Plenty of other people hurt their knees while working out in the gym.

You may not be able to stave off the random accidents that can lead to knee injuries, but you can take steps when working out in the gym to make sure you are not setting yourself up for some severe knee pain.

If you want to avoid knee injuries at all costs (and who does not?), make sure you are not making common gym mistakes.

Letting the Knees Cave in

One of the most common causes of knee injuriesis letting your knees cave inward when doing squats exercises. Also known as knee valgus, this phenomenon occurs because your hips rotate internally when they need to be externally turning.

When squatting, focus on making sure your knees stay in line with your toes. If they move inward, you could be setting yourself up for a severe knee injury like an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. You also will not see excellent results from your squats.

Putting Too Much Weight on Your Toes

Plenty of people also make the mistake of leaning too far forward when they squat. By doing this, they put too much weight on their toes. This, in turn, puts extra pressure on the knees and can cause ACL tears and conditions like patellofemoral syndrome (pain in the front of the knee).

It is important to focus on distributing weight evenly through the front and back of the feet. Try squatting barefoot or in socks to feel where your weight is going in your feet.

Wearing Improper Footwear

If your gym does not let your squat without shoes, make sure you wear shoes conducive to proper lifting form. If you are wearing thick running shoes, you will have a hard time stabilizing yourself, and it may be hard for you to tell if you are distributing your weight properly.

Look for a pair of flat shoes to wear when squatting and other resistance exercises. It is also easier to utilize your glutes and hamstrings when you wear these shoes, which is good for balance and avoiding putting too much strain on the knees.

Not Focusing on Mobility

Many people struggle with poor hip and ankle mobility, which partially explains why so many people also struggle with knee pain and injuries.

Good mobility allows you to move your joints through a full range of motion. Hip and ankle mobility is necessary for squatting, deadlifts, and other lower body strength movements. If you lack this mobility, you may find yourself compensating and creating muscle imbalances, which will likely come back to haunt you later on.

Pushing Yourself Too Hard

Pushing yourself too hard (especially when you are a beginner or returning from a long break) sets you up for injuries.

While there is nothing wrong with challenging yourself, it is crucial to know when you are overdoing it. Trying to add too much weight or regularly challenging your endurance can lead to muscle breakdown and leave you feeling tired and depleted.

When you feel this way, you will not be able to focus as quickly on good movement patterns and mechanics, so you are more likely to get hurt, even when you are doing exercises you have done a hundred times before.

Improper Running Form

Most of the mistakes discussed so far have to do with weightlifting, but you can also increase your risk of knee injuries if you are running with improper form.

Common running mistakes you will need to avoid include:

  • Overpronating (letting the feet roll outward)
  • Overstriding (taking too large of a step forward)
  • Letting your hip drop when your foot hits the ground

Neglecting Your Core

Finally, it is vital to make sure your core is firm to avoid knee injuries. At first, it might be hard to see how your core can affect your knees, but it is essential to remember that all the muscles in the body are connected. If one muscle group is weak, you may create imbalances that place pressure on a different area.

Tight back muscles can affect the tilt of your pelvis. For example, a weak core can cause tight back muscles. This, in turn, can cause weak, tight hip flexors. These can pull on the leg muscles and strain the knees.

Some of the best core exercises to include in your routine to prevent knee injuries include:

  • Planks
  • Bird-dogs
  • Hollow-body holds

Can You Still Workout if You Have Knee Pain?

The short answer? Sometimes.

Whether or not you can continue working out after injuring your knee depends on the severity of the injury.

If your doctor does clear you to exercise, it is important to take precautions to ensure you are not making your injury worse. Some tips for exercising when you are dealing with a knee injury or knee pain include:

  • Avoid decelerative single-leg exercises (walking or forward lunges)
  • Avoid high-impact movements like running and jumping
  • Focus on mobility and warm-up properly before every workout
  • Lighten your weight and focus on proper technique (do not try to go for personal bests while you are recovering)
  • Do accelerative single-leg exercises (reverse lunges, step-ups, etc.) to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings
  • Strengthen the posterior chain (back body) with deadlifts, glute bridges, and kettlebell swings
  • Wear a knee brace if necessary to stabilize the joint and improve alignment

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a lot of mistakes you can make in the gym that can lead to a knee injury. But, there are many things you can do to prevent these injuries. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe through all your workouts.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FLEMING, J. (2018) Risk of Knee Injury [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.