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“Don’t skip leg day!” It is a phrase that everyone at the gym hears on a consistent basis. However, your “leg day” exercises may be causing pain and damage to your knees- if they are not done correctly or if you are overexerting yourself.

Below are 3 Common Gym Exercises that may be doing more harm than good to your knees.

Leg Extensions

This exercise is done primarily to strengthen the Quadriceps musculature.  When performed with reasonable weight, and in moderation it can accomplish this goal.

Overuse in the form of excessive weight, excessive repetitions, and performing this exercise too frequently, (i.e.: more than every other day) can result in an inflammation of the cartilage behind the patella (kneecap) resulting in pain associated with such activities as kneeling, getting out of a chair, and going down stairs (Patello-Femoral Pain). It is important to limit reps as well to minimize the chances of overuse injuries. Try to limit this exercise to 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions, on an alternating day basis.

Weighted Lunges

Similar to Leg Extensions, this exercise is done to strengthen the Quadriceps, Glutes, and Hamstring musculature.  Mastering proper form can provide optimal results and minimizes your risk of injuries. During front lunges, it’s essential that you lower straight down with your pelvis flexed forward and your back straight. Ensure that you step your foot far enough forward so that the middle of your front knee is directly above your ankle during the downward motion. Lower your hips until your knees are about 90 degrees bent and place your weight on the back two-thirds of your front foot during the exercise.

However, repetitively performing lunges with weights, again places a significant force across the patella which may result in an inflammation of the cartilage behind the patella (kneecap) resulting in pain associated with such activities as kneeling, getting out of a chair, and going down stairs.  If you experience pain anywhere around the knee, stopping immediately and icing the knee, may prevent this inflammation (Patello-Femoral Pain) from occurring.


Squats strengthen the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Calves, and Core musculature. Proper form is also important when performing squats, to provide maximal results and lessen the chance of injury to your knees. It is important to keep your back straight, abdominal muscles tight, and chest up when performing this exercise. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, keeping your back in a neutral position, and your knees centered over your feet. Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering yourself until you reach a 90 degree angle. When done properly, squats actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue.

Again, if pain begins to develop in the your knee, stop immediately and ice the area.

Dr. Nicholas Alexander is the Founder of Mahwah Valley Orthopedic Associates and a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of hip and knee conditions.  Dr. Alexander completed his Fellowship in Adult Reconstruction and Reconstructive Surgery of the Hip and Knee at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He also serves as the Chairman of the Valley Hospital Total Joint Center. Dr. Alexander has offices in Mahwah and Clifton, NJ.  If you, or someone you love, is considering treatment for a knee problem, contact us today for a consultation.

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