Tips for participating in CrossFit when you have knee pain. - AK Physiotherapy

Tips for participating in CrossFit when you have knee pain.

Tips for participating in CrossFit when you have knee pain.

If you currently have knee pain here are some ideas for how you might participate in exercise without exacerbating pain:

STOP if it hurts

Whilst this might sound logical I am constantly surprised by how many people ignore pain thinking it will either go away or that it will be ok.  Most of the time these thoughts are NOT true.

So if a particular movement is hurting please use the provided substitution list and check if another exercise might be better for you.


 Avoid high impact exercise

Where possible you should choose low impact exercise on sore knees.  For example, cycling or rowing is preferred to running or skipping but of course, it does depend on the type of knee injury you have.

 Avoid full depth squats and full depth lunges

You may find that you can perform ¼ – ½ depth squats and lunges without pain but going deep into these movements results in increased symptoms.  It is ok to reduce your range of motion to stay within your pain limits.  Alternatively there are some great subsitutions to squatting and lunging where needed such as weighted bridges, leg press on a machine, knee extensions or leg curls.  Test movements and see what ones you can perform without pain and rely on these to rebuild strength in the early stages.

Control your hip, knee and foot alignment

Imperative to having good knees is keeping correct alignment of your hip, knee and ankle/foot with lower limb exercise. Sometimes fixing this is all it takes to go from having pain to not having pain.  Avoid having the knees collapse inwards with lunges or squats, keep your whole foot on the ground without rolling inward or outwards, and try to keep the knee lined up over the ankle.

Wear good shoes

We all have different mechanics and NO one shoe fits all so make sure you are wearing the right footwear for you.  This will mean seeking advice from a health professional about what type of shoe you need.  Other than a Physio or Podiatrist you could get help from In-training or Athletes Foot.

Tape your knee for added support or wear a knee support

An Allied Health Professional will be able to show you how you can tape your knee to provide extra support while training. Individual advice would be required if you think this is a good option for you.  You could also try wearing a knee support.  These are short term solutions while you are recovering from injury to help de-load the injured tissue.

Stretch your lower limb muscles and roll your muscles

Stretch your lower limb muscles and roll your muscles on a foam roller or a trigger point ball.   Hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, adductors etc.

Below is a list of substitution ideas:

Box squats, wall sits, weighted bridges may be performed instead of full depth squats where needed.

Banded leg press or golfers lift or single leg balance work instead of lunges where needed.

Bike, ski erg, elliptical machine or row instead of run or skip.

Calf raises instead of skipping.

Step ups (to a height that is pain free) instead of box jumps.

Muscle snatch and muscle clean instead of power snatches and cleans as needed.


Finally here is some accessory work to improve pain and function:

Seated straight leg raise 3 x 10 (add sandbag weight to ankle as able)

Single leg bridges 3 x 10

Crab walks (add band around ankles as able) 5 x 10m per side

Leg extensions and leg curls (single leg versions) 3 x 10-15 reps per side

“Discipline is doing what needs to be done even if you don’t want to.”

Written by April King



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