Question: At almost 62, what strength workouts are best after (multiple) partial meniscectomies? Dumbbell squats, step-ups? Neither? Any ideas? Left knee has had 3 procedures, right 2, and may need another. Thanks. – Michael G.
Coach Harvey Newton Replies: Michael, I am not a medical professional, so I certainly defer to what your surgeon recommends.
Squatting, at least for those with “healthy” knees, is normally the exercise of choice recommended by strength and conditioning professionals. That said, the leg press remains what I would consider cyclists’ most popular lower body strengthening exercise.
Ideally, what you want to include is a closed kinetic chain: multiple joint movement that involves hip and knee extension against resistance. Step-ups, lunges, all forms of squats, and the leg press all meet this criteria.
Generally speaking, such closed kinetic chain movements are preferred over open kinetic chain exercises, such as leg (knee) extensions and/or leg (knee) curls.
So, first check with your medical advisors. If you get a thumbs-up from them, please consider recruiting, at least on a temporary basis, the experience of a well-qualified strength training professional to assist with proper exercise technique.
If by chance your doctors do not want you to perform any of the above-listed resistance training exercises due to their concerns about your knees, look at effective ways to strengthen your lower body on the bike.
Good luck, and let us know how things go.
Coach Harvey Newton is a former USA national weightlifting team coach and former strength training consultant to USA national cycling teams throughout the 1980s and ’90s. He’s the author of the Strength Training for Cyclists DVD-based program in the RBR eBookstore and full-time strength training coach. Click to read Harvey’s full bio on his site.
I had meniscus surgery in 2017. I was a powerlifter back then, and at a follow-up appointment I asked my doctor, “What can I do to get my knee back to 100%?” His answer? “Get a bike.”
“What about squats?”
He had me do a couple of squats and watched from several angles. “Sure, you can do squats. But get a bike.”
“How about running?”
“Your running days are over. Just get a bike.”
This is how I became a cyclist. But to address Michael G’s concern, squats and yoga are what has kept my knees (and the rest of my body) in good shape, One set of 15-20 reps of barbell squats works for me; once you get 20, increase the weight by 5-10 lbs.
Dennis Kelly says
I had meniscus surgery about 20 years ago. My doc was also a cyclist and told me that the best thing I could do for the knee was cycle.
Rick Bryan says
Just be careful and listen to your knees. I had l and R ACL replacement surgeries plus the related arthroscopic procedures to clean out junk. You want to work on strengthening the muscles around the joint. Leg raises are great; side, and while lying on your stomach or back. Elastic band are great, as you know. Ankle weights when you can do so. Calf raises. Personally I don’t like squats because they’re so hard to do correctly, especially without a spotter. Be careful and you’ll be fine.
andy c. says
Great answers so far, but don’t forget to fully strengthen your entire leg!
Leg press and cycling are great, but do make some room for squats. The leg press pretty much only strengthens the quadriceps, but your hamstrings and calves do a fair bit of work keeping your knee in balance and held together when you’re doing anything other than cycling. So, you’re going to need some strength in those muscles as well or you’ll get some pain or worse later on. Hire a personal trainer to show you how to do proper squats and some other great exercises to keep your knees strong and in balance and you won’t have any problems later on. And do some pedaling every week. Keep working it because there is a big coincidence of meniscus surgery and knee ligament degeneration. Some resistance training–any amount–should keep this at bay.
Like Mr. Bryan said: listen to them and be careful, but definitely don’t get complacent. Keep moving and enjoy the exercise you do!
(I’m a personal trainer who specializes in injury rehab and prehab. This is what I do.)
Herb Weiss says
In most cases, a good physical therapist will devise an appropriate rehab regimen for your particular needs, and your health insurance will cover the cost. Find an experienced, hands-on person who you feel connected with. Too many practices hire kids (recent graduates) who can write reports and put you on machines but don’t know much. Personal trainers often have little medical background and may undo your surgeon’s work.