“Knee pain” – that was the chief complain of a good friend of mine who I just started coaching a couple of days ago. Unfortunately this is a complain that most people over 40 share.

He isn’t even 35, but he thought, his knee pain was a natural effect of pain. Most people do.

And after assessing his movement it was easy to see why. His core integration and strength is non-existent, the main reason why people have knee pain and terrible posture.

When I start working with new clients, such as with my friend Felix, I usually begin by teaching them how to breath. Once their diaphragm starts working again, their sternum, neck and rib cage relaxes. Mobility comes back to their bodies and core integration becomes possible.

First assessment

Standing, with feet parallel to each other, and using tactile cues, I get them into a more “correct” posture. Their pelvic tilt gets neutral, and hips, legs, shoulders and head get squared in relationship to the hips. Most people can hardly believe that the position I get them into is correct, since they feel awkward, twisted, and out of balance.

knee pain

Unfortunately, by the time they find themselves in this position, their knees have locked themselves completely. Since their bodies are experiencing an improved, yet highly unusual posture, they don’t have the muscle strength neither the neuromuscular connections to keep these new positions in place. Their bodies then lock all the tension on the knees (among other, less visible places).

Once I ask them to unlock their knees, a universal reaction happens – their bodies fall out of position like a house of cards – It’s amusing to see, and frustrating to experience.

“Every day I see people with rock-hard ankles that don’t respond to the natural movements of their bodies, as they are completely immobilized trying to keep people on their feet”

Again, this happens because the muscles responsible for good posture (stabilizers) are too weak to create tension to maintain the body stocked on top of each other, – ankles stock on top of the feet, knees on top of the ankles, hips on knees and so on -.

Muscles that are responsible for movement, lock themselves into positions that shouldn’t, to give a hand to the muscles responsible for stabilizing, that are too weak to perform their function.

knee pain

For this reason, joints of people with bad posture, accumulate tremendous tension and with that, mobility goes south. Every day I see people with rock-hard ankles that don’t respond to the natural movements of their bodies, as they are completely immobilized trying to keep their owners on their feet.

What is worse is that final destination of all these changes is the spine, that as a result, gets pulled into all directions further damaging posture and well being.

There is also a second reason why knees lock: the body will always look for the easiest ways to do things, not necessarily the healthiest. By locking the knees, your body is giving a holiday to most muscles in your legs and core.

This is easy to spot in women, especially when on high heels. It is also negative, because when you lock the knees, all the bones of your legs and knees crush the soft tissue, damaging it and preventing people from enjoying activities as they age.

So, how to repair knee pain?

Today I share a couple of simple tricks, that if done constantly, can cascade into multiple benefits such as pain-free knees, stronger legs, glutes and core strength, and a posture to die for!

While standing:

  1. Start by developing the habit of observation. Observe the position of your knees and learn the difference between locked and unlocked knees.
  2. Keep some attention on the back of your knees while standing. When you detect your knees locked, immediately unlock them, by flexing the knees (bend them) a few millimeters. Don’t allow the knee to bend forward too much.
  3. Every time you unlock your knees, activate all the muscles around the knees, for around 5 to 10 seconds to get the muscles stronger and your brain accustomed to this new tension.
When you do the corrections described above, make sure that:

  • your spine stays tall
  • your pelvic tilt remains neutral (avoid sticking out your butt)
  • your lower belly doesn’t pop out
  • your jaw and tongue stay relaxed

While sitting:

  1. Keep your hips under your upper body and don’t allow them to tilt forward. Don’t let your butt slide forward on the chair
  2. Sit straight with both feet resting completely flat on the floor. This way you prevent your ankles and knees to assume positions where they can hold plenty of tension. Your pelvis will then be forced into a correct position, and the core muscles will get activated. It ain’t easy at the beginning but pursue, it is worth.
  3. Don’t cross your legs. If you do, you are displacing the effort from your core to your knees, ankles and feet. It also displace your hips to the side and your spine out of alignment. As tiring as it feels, you will be OK in a matter of days.
When you do the corrections described above, make sure that:

  • You don’t round your chest
  • your head doesn’t protrude forward
  • your chin doesn’t point upwards
  • your belly doesn’t pop out
  • keep neutral sternum – no soldier chest here –

Last thoughts

Overall, if you want to resolve your knee pain, your knees should never be locked, not in your daily life, not in the gym. A lot of people tend to lock their knees at the beginning and at the end of the Squat and Deadlift, and not even their Personal Trainers recognize the problem. This is wrong.

The only two exceptions I can think of are the “locked knees” deadlift, and the Jefferson curls, both exercises not belonging on a beginner’s program anyway, so avoid.

Knee pain is a huge factor when it comes down to enjoy life. Take care of them, take care of your body, it is precious, and it is your only tool to experience this beautiful world of ours. Good luck!