I have incurable shitty knees.
Excuse the language but that’s the medical diagnosis that most accurately describes the condition of my knees.
The true label could be patella tendonitis or tendinosis. “Jumper’s Knee.”
But “incurable shitty knees” works just fine.
As luck would have it, two of my favorite activities (lifting weights, namely squatting) and competitive volleyball are two of the worst activities for knee pain sufferers. The former involves squatting with upwards of 300-400lbs of additional resistance on your back, and the latter involves repeated jumps and landing on a hard surface.
I’ve been dealing with knee pain on and off (mostly on) for quite a few years. So as you can imagine I’ve tried almost everything
Here’s a Short List Of Crap I’ve Tried
Correcting Tracking Issues
Changing Squatting Form
Not Squatting At All
Shockwave and Laser Therapy
Mega-dosing fish oil
Almost any other joint-fixing supplement you can think of
Taking 8x the recommended amount of Ibuprofrin
Some of these things helped a bit, but nothing truly fixed the problem. After my last powerlifting meet, my knees were at their worst. I typically take a week off after a competition, but this time the week off didn’t help. So I stayed away from squats and other exercises for two weeks. Then a month. Then two months. Still, after two months of complete rest I was seeing no improvement.
That’s When I Discovered This 3-Step Fix
Before I dive into the exact protocol, it’s important to understand why most of the information regarding knee pain and tendonititis is absolutely wrong for me and perhaps for you too.
I’d always been told (by medical professionals) that knee pain of this variety is typically caused by tracking issues, weak quads, tight hamstrings or some combination of the aforementioned factors.
This might be true for endurance athletes. In fact, if you’re an endurance athlete dealing with patella tendonitis, you’ll probably get some relief by doing negative squats on a slant board.
But if you’re a strength athlete, negative/eccentric squats probably won’t help you at all. Because you don’t have weak quads. Your quads are already strong. And assuming you know how to squat properly, your knees are probably tracking just fine. And again, if you can squat to depth it’s doubtful that tight hamstrings are holding you back.
The Exact Opposite
If you’re gym rat or a strength trainer dealing with knee pain, it’s not because you have weak quads or tight hamstrings. In fact, you probably have the OPPOSITE problem. You probably have tight quads that are overpowering your hamstrings.
Coach Kelly Baggett goes as far as to say that perfect “recipe” for inducing knee pain would be…
1. high levels of quadricep strength (regular squatting or solid barbell training)
2. high or intermittent levels of explosive jumps
3. low levels of cardiovascular, GPP, or conditioning activity
4. low levels of static and dynamic mobility work – flexibility deficits
5. Advancing age
If you’ll notice, I managed to check-off all five items on his list. So it’s no wonder that I’m a prime candidate for knee pain.
The 3-Part Fix For Knee Pain
There’s no easy cure for knee pain. Even when you think you’ve beaten it back, it comes roaring forward at the last minute.
But the following 3 steps have made a positive difference with my knees and if you’re a strength athlete dealing with knee issues, I think this will help you too.
Before we talk about Step 1, it should be noted that Step Zero is to stop all offending activities for a while. If squats hurt your knees, you’ve got to put squats on the shelves for a while. I tried all different forms of leg work. But they all aggravated my knees so I had to eventually give up. I did car pushes/prowler sled pulls which helped maintain leg strength without bothering my knees.
If jumping and/or sprints causes pain, you’ve got to take a break from those activities as well. You won’t want to (I didn’t) but you have to. I liken it to hitting your thumb with a hammer: We can ice the thumb and do a variety of other treatments to speed recovery, but if you continue to hit your thumb with a hammer it’s never going to heal.
Got it? Good. Here is:
Step #1: Do this stretch 2x a day.
I don’t know the proper term for this stretch so I just call it the “couch stretch. Namely because I do this stretch on my couch. Do two minutes per leg, twice a day. (Once in the a.m., once the p.m.)
You’ll probably want to put a pillow or some kind of pad under your knee. Then push your hips forward and you’ll really feel the stretch in your quads and hip flexors.
Step #2: Bike.
For years, I’ve spoken out against “long slow cardio” because I think it’s horribly ineffective for weight loss. I haven’t changed my stance on this. But long slow cardio is good for driving blood to damaged cartilage and speeding up the repair process. For knee injuries, jogging is only going to make things worse so the order of the day is going to be a bike — stationary or otherwise.
Try and hit this 3x a week for 20 minutes a session, although that’s really a bare minimum. You’d probably see faster results with 60 minutes a day six days a week, but work up to that slowly.
Step #3: Take 10 grams of L-Glycine a day.
The final piece of the puzzle is a supplement that may help speed up the process. Here’s the exact brand I’ve been using.
This stuff is powdered and mixes easily in water. I use 5 grams (1 teaspoon) in the morning and 5 grams (1 teaspoon) in the evening. As an added bonus, many people report it helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality. (I haven’t noticed that.)
Wrap-Up: If you’re battling knee pain and you’re NOT an endurance athlete, then you already know how difficult it can be to find information on how to vanquish your knee pain for good. I can’t promise any miracles but try the 3-step protocol above and let me know how it works out for you.