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Glute exercises for bad knees

Having knee pain can feel debilitating - especially when it gets in the way of your fitness goals. If you’re struggling with knee pain and want to continue working on muscle gains, you may not need to give up on your glute goals altogether. The key is to simply find knee-friendly glute exercises that work for you. So what are the best glute exercises for bad knees?

best glute movements for knees

Squats and lunges (that can be very heavy on the knees) aren’t the only way to get your glutes in great shape. In fact, having a diversified lower body routine can help keep your muscles engaged and active, and can help prevent a fitness plateau.

So, what can you do if you want to reconcile your knee pain with your glute gains? In this blog post, we’re going to go over some of our favourite knee-friendly glute exercises, how to perform them, and how to grow your glutes even when your knees aren’t participating. Let’s take a look!

Can I work out if I have knee pain?

First of all – can you work out with knee pain? The answer is: it depends. Before beginning any workout, it’s important to analyse your knee pain. Some injuries or conditions might require a period of rest before you begin any strenuous exercise, and you don’t want to exacerbate any problems by exercising too soon.

If your knee pain is onset and sudden, we’d recommend speaking to a doctor before beginning any exercise programme. If your knee pain is related to an existing injury, speak with your doctor about when you can begin exercising again. In most cases, you should be able to perform low-impact, knee-friendly exercises, so long as they don’t exacerbate any existing pain or create new discomfort. However, you’re going to want to avoid putting pressure on your knees (such as via squats or lunges) when you have a new knee injury, and wait for medical advice before performing any workouts.

Best glute exercises for bad knees

If you’re dealing with a knee injury or ongoing knee pain related to another condition, you can still get your glutes in tip-top condition with the following low-impact, knee-friendly exercises:

Donkey kicks

WATCH: How to do a donkey kick here.

Donkey kicks are an incredibly knee-friendly exercise for the lower body, as they can be performed on a comfortable exercise or yoga mat and aren’t going to put any unnecessary pressure on the knees. To perform a donkey kick, position yourself on your hands and knees on your exercise mat. Lift one leg and bend it at a 90 degree angle, and pulse it towards the air. Repeat 30 times, before repeating on the other side.

You can take your workout up a notch by performing weighted donkey kicks: you can either add an ankle weight to both of your ankles or position a small dumbbell in the small 90 degree nook in your active leg. You might want to perform fewer repetitions when you add weights, so give your body the time to get used to the resistance. Don’t forget to perform the same number of repetitions on each side to avoid strength imbalance.

Fire hydrants

WATCH: How to do fire hydrants here.

Great for toning the outer glutes, fire hydrants are another great knee-friendly exercise to help get your booty in tip top condition. To perform a fire hydrant, position yourself on your hands and knees on all fours. You’re going to lift one leg up and bring your knee towards your ear, almost as if you’re a dog doing a wee on a fire hydrant (hence the name!) When you’re in this position, you’re going to lower and lift your leg in alignment with your hips. Repeat 30 times on each side.

If you want to up the challenge, add resistance bands or ankle weights to this exercise for an added burn. As you’ll be on your knees, you’ll also want to ensure you’re using a comfortable, thick mat while working out, to protect your knees from any hard flooring surfaces.

Glute Bridges

WATCH: How to do a Glute Bridges hold

Bridges are another great exercise that can help you to isolate and build the glutes, and you can perform them in the comfort of your own home with zero equipment necessary – perhaps just a comfortable yoga mat or exercise mat. Bridges are performed by laying on your back with your knees up and your heels as close to your bum as possible. Slowly lift your hips up off the floor and lower them; repeat this movement up to 30 times, before taking a pause and resuming another set of repetitions.

To make bridges even more effective, you can perform them with weights. Hold your weights over your stomach and perform the same repetitions, making sure to only use weights that correspond to your physical capacities.

You can take your bridge to the next level by performing a one-legged (or unilateral) bridge. This is the same as a normal bridge, but you keep one leg pointed in the air when raising your hips off the ground. This helps to isolate each of the glute muscles – and you’re going to feel this one burn! Just make sure that you perform the same amount of repetitions on each side to prevent any muscular or strength imbalances.


Read: Best deadlifts for glute growth.

Deadlifts are great for your glutes, and are one of the few exercises that enable you to isolate your glute muscles while standing upright. We consider deadlifts to be knee-friendly as there’s no knee-bending involved in the movement; your knees remain pretty much in the same place all the way throughout the exercise. Make sure to lift according to your own capacities, and don’t overdo yourself if you find it challenging. Knowing your limits helps to prevent further injuries.

To perform a deadlift, take a weight that you are comfortable lifting and either hold it at your chest or hold one in each hand. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. You’re going to lean your upper body downwards towards the ground, without arching your back. You’ll feel your muscles in the back of your legs firing – to really isolate your glutes, put your weight predominantly in your heels.

Remember, there are normally a number of machines in the gym that allow you to isolate your glutes without putting strain on your knees! It’s important to seek these out and keep the pressure off of your knees but again, you should first seek medical advice!


I’m Chloe – a body confidence writer here at House of Peach! I help women to feel fabulous in the body they’re in and feel amazing in gym wear – regardless of their body shape and type. Unleash Your Peach.

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