Common Exercise Mistakes That Cause Knee Pain and How to Avoid Them

Knee Pain and Exercise-The Mistakes

How to Identify the Cause and Solve it



Picture by skyhawk on Shutterstock

I get a lot of questions about knee pain mostly from clients who are new to exercise. Needless to say, knee pain can be extremely troublesome and escalate to minacious levels if not avoided, managed or treated. It could be a consequence of several exercise-related mistakes, hence easy to fix. Best to do it proactively rather than reactively, if reactively, then do it early enough. Here’s a list of questions whose answers will help you decipher the underlying problem and appropriate mitigations.

They are derived from my personal experience with exercise-related knee pain characterised by discomfort, limping, inflammation, several unsuccessful visits to doctors, endless tests and scans, painkillers and wearing knee caps-I had to shop for trousers so I could cover my knees when going to work. For a while, my normal life came to a halt as I had to refocus my energy and attention on the stubborn pain, difficulty in walking-I couldn’t comfortably walk downstairs, hospital visits and a stop to exercise among other frustrations. I wish someone had pointed me to the right direction at that time! Luckily, frustration can sometimes yield fruition! I did a self-evaluation and extensive research and within no time I solved the problem without medication, thanks to solutions I derived from these questions about everything I was doing wrong.

1. Do you warm up first?

It is not just vital, it is a must! Warm up does exactly what its name says; it warms up the joints and prepares them for activity after a sedentary or minimal activity-day. Imagine waking up and going straight to running or squatting, just the mere thought of that makes me cringe as it is too painful and sudden for the joints and muscles. Think of warm up as weaning for the joints, you wouldn’t introduce a baby to solid foods right away, right?

2. Do you wear proper shoes?

A proper shoe whose insole offers sufficient support/cushioning does the magic. When you step down, there’s a lot of pressure that is applied to the knee-imagine the friction and impact when the knee joints hit each other! A proper shoe helps by absorbing some of this impact. Without it, you put the knee under a lot of stress, and it succumbs after a while. Which brings me to my next point-rubbers are a no-no!! Thin-soled shoes too! I love Asics running shoes, they are my ultimate go-to.

3. Do you run on tarmac?

Pls Stop! Run on softer ground, do tarmac only once in a while, it is good for strengthening the knees and giving it a bit of a challenge. Hard ground places pressure/stress on the knees. Lucky for some Nairobi dwellers/visitors, those within proximity to Lavington, Jaffery’s Sports Club has invested in a multi million spongy professional standard jogging track that is safe for the knees. What’s more, it is open to the public!

4. How is your Form?

Form-also known as posture-is a miracle worker. With bad form, you will not only end up with an injury, but also work out endlessly without getting any results! Imagine squatting everyday for months and neither growing nor sculpting the butt even an inch!! Whatever your move is, observe proper form,

The basics of proper form are:

a) For any workout, don’t arch your back-keep it upright instead.
b) Always tighten/engage your core.
c) If you’re in an upright/squat position, keep your back straight too & look straight ahead. Check out my step-by-step demo video about proper squats below.
d) If in a horizontal position, your body should be in a straight line, i.e. back aligned with the lower body-try this with planks and see.
e) Always keep your arms, feet and knees stable
f) If using weights, ensure not to be wobbly.

Video on Proper Form for Squats

In summary, bad form places pressure on the wrong part of the body, or places the whole weight on only one part, hence, pain over time.

5. How do you run?

Upright-no slouching! Don’t drag your feet. Remember, form is everything!

6. How is your diet?

Do you run and run and run…and work out and squat endlessly; but forget to feed accordingly? The joints needs to be supplied with the required nutrients. Watch your calcium intake, it’s important! And don’t work out and diet, instead, work out then feed accordingly-You can still lose weight without having to skip meals, clean eating is the secret. I am a lover of bone soup for my knees…Try it!!

7. Do you stretch after working out?

Picture by Tackey on Shutterstock

Just like warming up, this is also important so don’t skip it. It is tempting to slump on the floor or sofa, jump into the showers or hurry back to your day right after the last set. This however does your muscles more harm than good, an aspect that could undo all the intended gains of the workout. Stretching helps to gradually slow down the body after an intense workout session as opposed to an abrupt stop and resumption of other activities. It also increases the muscles’ range of motion, improves flexibility and makes the muscles and joints ready and exercise-friendly during your next session.

8. Are your knees strong enough for the work?

It could be that your knees are weak, thus you’re giving them more work than they can handle. In this case, follow my above captioned knee strengthening exercises, they will help strengthen your knees and the muscles around them.

How much resting do you do? Don’t rest too much. Yes that’s right!! Rest for, say a week, then start with the knee strengthening exercises-too much rest will still leave your knees and muscles weak.

After the rest and knee strengthening exercises, resume exercise but go easy on the knees at the start. That is, choose workouts that give you what you need, but are friendly to the knees, see my example demo videos of knee friendly workouts linked at the end of this article. Remember to add the knee strengthening exercises at the end of each workout session.

To help with my knee pain, and because I discovered at that time that I did not know much about proper working out, I worked with a personal trainer. After examining and interviewing me, he assured me that all I needed was to continue working out-properly-and eating well. At first I did not believe him, but after a while, the pain was gone! He guided me through my workouts with a goal of strengthening the knees while at the same time realising my fitness goals.

9. Is your weight comfortable for your knees?

Body weight, sometimes, depending on your weight, could be your undoing as your body exerts too much weight on your knees. This of course worsens with exercise because in that case the knees are not only required to carry your weight but also to bear the pressure that comes with increased activity.

1. Keep working on weight loss (if that’s your goal) with other low impact activities e.g. walking, brisk walks and other knee-friendly workouts. remember the goal here is to exercise for weight loss while being mindful of the knees.
2. Most importantly, practice clean eating. It works miracles for weight loss!🥳 Then after a while, you can resume the high impact workouts, with stronger knees & less weight.

My pain was not with regards to body weight exerted on the knees, but the above could be for other people hence important to pay attention to.

While at it; correcting the wrongs, being nice to your knees and taking it easy, go for some physiotherapy if you can. It helps with the recovery and pain relief. But….only if you observe the above! Physio alone won’t help if you’re not following what’s required!

If the pain doesn’t go away, of course, please go see a medical doctor and let them examine, test, scan, refer to a physiotherapist, etc. Then come back and let’s keep working out happily.

1. Warm up before working out.
2. Wear proper shoes. Asics is my go-to for running and workout.
3. Limit running on hard surfaces, choose softer options such as grass, earth, treadmill-not tarmack.
4. Maintain proper form during exercise.
5. Run upright-Don’t slouch or drag your fees.
6. Feed your bones with the required nutrients.
7. Stretch after each workout session. Read further the benefits of stretching and other related gym mistakes that could lead to joint issues.
8. Do pain-relieving exercises.
9. Resume working out starting with knee strengthening & knee-friendly exercises.
9. Watch your weight.
10. Keep watching your form.
11. If necessary, seek medical assistance and/or physiotherapy.

Was this helpful? Let me know and also share any other fitness-related struggles you have and I will be happy to answer and guide you accordingly.




I see extra in the ordinary & use words to paint it; fueled by a quest for mental health. Lover of forests, fitness, nature, good food & reading & a coffee snob