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Do Push-Ups Hurt Your Knees? (Or Strengthen Them?)

Push-ups are an incredibly beneficial exercise. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it many more times again.

But despite all the benefits that push-ups come with, there are, like with all exercises, some downsides to the movement too.

In this article, we look at whether one of these downsides is that push-ups hurt your knees (or not).

In it, we discuss reasons why your knees might hurt as a result of doing push-ups, whether the exercise can strengthen your knees or whether it can actually cause pain in your knees.

woman holding her injured knee

Are Push-Ups Bad For Your Knees?

No, push-ups aren’t bad for your knees.

Very little strain is placed on your knees during push-ups, so it’s fairly unlikely that your knees will feel any negative stress throughout the movement.

Push-ups primarily target muscles in your upper body such as your chest, shoulders, arms, and core.

While some lower body muscles come into play such as quads and glutes, they’re never part of the primary working muscle groups so very little stress is placed on them.

Although you may feel some discomfort in your knees during push-ups, this is usually a result of a pre-existing injury or other knee-related problems instead of being a direct result of doing push-ups.

Can Push-Ups Cause Knee Pain?

Any exercise can cause pain and discomfort in different areas of your body. This doesn’t necessarily mean the pain is directly related to the exercise you’re currently performing though.

The same is true for push-ups.

As a general rule, push-ups don’t usually cause knee pain. However, they may contribute to your knee pain if you already have some kind of knee issue before you start doing the exercise.

If you do have a knee issue and you feel any kind of pain or discomfort when doing push-ups, it can be an easy mistake to make to think that it’s push-ups that are causing your knee issue.

However, it’s worth considering that you have a problem with your knees that might need the attention of a medical professional to help reduce any pain felt during push-ups and everyday life too.

Any knee pain felt during push-ups is usually a sign that something needs your attention.

Why Can Push-Ups Cause Knee Pain?

Incorrect Technique

As with all exercises, if you’re using the incorrect technique for your push-ups, this can lead to pain and discomfort in your knees (or elsewhere in your body).

When done correctly, push-ups work your upper body and only place the working muscles and joints in this area of your body under stress.

If your knees are being put under excessive stress during push-ups, as a result of poor technique, you could very well experience knee pain during the exercise.

Any pain or discomfort felt in an area of the body not being targeted by the exercise you’re doing could be a sign that you’re making errors in your technique.

(Watch below to see how to do the perfect push-up to avoid knee pain!)

Knee Injury Or Issue

Another potential cause of knee pain during push-ups is that you could already have a knee injury or another knee-related issue.

You may not know you’re carrying a knee injury, so pain felt during push-ups could make you think that you’re doing things wrong.

However, as push-ups put little stress on your knees, it would be fairly unlikely that the exercise is the sole cause of your knee pain.

If you feel any pain or discomfort in your knees during push-ups, you should consider whether you’ve picked up an injury at some point.

Do Push-Ups Strengthen Your Knees?

Push-ups aren’t particularly good at strengthening your knees.

The main reason for this is that push-ups are an upper body exercise so they target upper body mucles and joints.

As the joints in your lower body, like your knees, aren’t really put under much stress at all during the exercise, it’s unlikely that you’ll get any benefits in this area of your body.

While your quads and glutes may get some kind of benefit from push-ups, even this will be minimal.

If you’re trying to strengthen your knees, there are much better exercises for you out there than push-ups.

How To Do Push-Ups With Bad Knees

As long as you haven’t been told by a doctor not to do push-ups, and your bad knees don’t get worse as a result of doing them, push-ups are an exercise that can still be done when dealing with knee issues.

The key is to do things gradually, comfortably, and correctly.

Start by doing a small number of push-ups to see how your bad knees cope with them. This can then be increased if things go well.

It can also be useful to try different push-up variations to find the one that’s most comfortable for you and your knees.

Another big part of doing push-ups with bad knees is to ensure that your technique is 100% correct to avoid putting excessive stress on areas of your body that shouldn’t be feeling it, like your knees.


Symptoms of Knee Pain/Injury

How To Do A Push-Up Properly