T Nation

Quad training after knee surgery...


I’m in my mid- thirties, and I still maintain a pretty high level of physical conditioning. I utilize strength training (and emphasize Olympic- style weightlifting exercises), explosive power and soft- tissue recovery training (sled training), “core conditioning” (exercises that emphasive abs and lower back), and what I euphemistically call “vomit” training - 5 minute intervals of alternating 15- 20 seconds of sprinting with 10 seconds of rest. However, I recently (~ 6 months ago) had knee surgery to repair a torn posterior horn of my latertal meniscus, and I find that I simply can’t deep squat (rock bottom), nor perform below parallel squats without grinding and crunching noises from my knee. Simce I don’t want to have knee replacement surgery in the next 5 years, I’m interested in ways to train the quads without deep squats. I currently perform deadlifts and power cleans as my quad weightlifting movements. I hate machine exercises (leg press, knee extensions) because there’s no functional transference. Any suggestions?

One type of squat you may be able to do without pain are wide stance low bar box squats. If you do them correctly there is very little stress on the knees. You could also try lunges,one legged partial squats off a box, step-ups, and high rep bodyweight squats.

Following my ACL reconstruction, I was advised not to squat or do HEAVY leg presses for anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Granted, this was 7 years ago, and medical technology and practices have advanced astronomically concerning knee/knee reconstruction. I now do heavy deep squats and leg presses with no problems. The main thing to do is focus on getting your entire flexibility back in the knee, while maintaining (and concurrently builiding) strength. Although squats do not necessarily aid in knee damage when done correctly, the opportunity for further knee damage is facilitated due to the instability of your knee joint right now. Just focus on the leg press and extension for now, in time, you will hopefully be able to squat in time.

I had knee surgery too and I cannot squat like I used to. I stick to leg extensions and I have been getting good results. I also do a lot of stiff-legged deadlifts. The normal bent leg variety aggravates my knee. In your case, I think you might want to cut leg presses out too for a while. Whether it be squats or leg presses, it put a lot of compressive force on your knee, putting a lot of stress on, guess what? Your menisci! I know a lot people do not like leg extensions, but you can get great quad stimulation without the compressive forces of a pressing movement. Bill Roberts mentioned that it is the only quad movement he does. A bit extreme perhaps, but I think demonizing extensions has gone to far. I think leg extensions may be actually GOOD for the knees because it emphasizes work on the VMO muscle (the inner head of the qua)–a muscle that is commonly weak in people with knee problems.