Whoever said “beauty is pain” has obviously never sprained an ankle. Although many of the commonly-practiced and known exercises for toning up the abs and lower extremities are effective, they do not offer modifications for people with joint pain. If you find yourself in major discomfort while working out, here are six exercises to shape your body without hurting your joints.
The bird-dog crunch
This is a compound exercise, which means it activates more than one muscle group. As you keep your knees and hands shoulder-width apart on the ground in a table-top position, pull one leg into your chest, and straighten it out, flexing your foot at full extension. This will build your abs, hamstrings, glutes, and shoulders.
Perform this exercise with five repetitions on each side.
Modified bicycle crunch
The original bicycle crunch requires you to keep both legs off the ground as you twist with your upper body. The modified version of this exercise will still activate your obliques and rotational muscles without putting a significant strain on your joints.
Lying flat on your back with your knees bent in front of you, pull a bent left leg up to your right elbow, and repeat on the other side. Continue for one minute straight and take a 20 second break. Repeat between three to five sets, depending on your comfort level.
This lower extremity movement will activate your glutes and hamstrings without putting too much pressure on your joints. Take an exercise band and secure it to a stable, immobile object behind you. Grab the band between your legs and walk forward until it is pulled taut.
Start with the upper half of your body bent slightly towards the ground at your glutes, making sure not to over-arch your back. Straighten yourself up, and pull the band through your legs as you do this. Repeat three sets of eight pull-throughs.
This exercise is great for people with joint pain because you can modify it on a scale based on your level of discomfort. Start with your back against the wall and your legs in anywhere between a 45 to 90 degree angle with the wall, gauging how your knees feel in the process.
Set a timer for one minute and hold this position.
Standing leg extensions
Standing sideways to a wall, reach your arm out to stabilize your body. Lift your outside leg up to about a 45 degree angle with the ground, and straighten it out as closely to full extension as you can. Bend your leg back behind you and repeat eight times on each side for up to three sets.
Side leg raises
Side leg raises can be performed with straight or bent legs depending on comfort level. Lying on your side with one arm underneath your head and the other on your hip, lift your outer leg up without rotating it forward or backwards. This will engage your core, glutes, and outer thighs.
Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side for up to three sets.