Substitute for Squats and Lunges

Hi – I’m starting my weight loss program and many exercise programs include squats and lunges. Unfortunately, my knees will not allow those exercises (I was diagnosed with arthritis in both knees). What substitutions can I incorporate to hit the muscles targeted by squats and lunges?


Hi Aretha— Great question and very commonly asked! I would suggest that you start trying leg-lift exercises that are done with the leg in a straight position, knees soft.

These exercises can be completed with ankle weights or an ankle attachment that connects to a weighted cable pulley:

Front Leg Lifts: Kicking leg straight up and down to target your quads. Lateral Leg Lifts: Kicking leg straight up to the side to target outer thighs and hips. Rear Leg Lifts: Kicking leg up straight behind you to target your glutes and hamstrings.

Begin with high rep, low weight and feel the burn, Progress slowly by adding more weight and really squeeze each target area. Experiment with tempo changes to your repetition count such as up slow, pause squeeze at the top, lower and repeat. Isometric holds at the top range of each leg lift should also help strengthen and improve endurance in the working muscles around the knees. Never lock your knees straight during any of these exercises and try to perform them a few days a week on non-consequitive days.

Good luck!