Knee pain can be an actual pain in the ass when it comes to strengthening your legs and butt. How are you supposed to build strength in your lower body if one of your major joints down there already hurts? It is possible—and building that glute strength is especially important if you do have bad knees.
“If your glutes are weak, it usually means your whole posterior chain—glutes, back, hamstrings—is weak, and that your anterior chain—like your quads—is dominating,” says Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., co-owner of SoHo Strength Lab in NYC and a registered dietitian for ProMix Nutrition. “Weakness can lead to instability, poor mechanics, and overuse injuries that manifest in things like knee pain or low back pain.”
It’s a vicious cycle: If you have knee pain and you skip glute-building exercises, you’re just going to make that knee pain worse. What you want to do instead is skip standard, knee-dominant exercises like squats and lunges and incorporate other moves and variations that won’t overtax your knees.
And remember: “Knee pain can be caused by a variety of movements, depending on what is the root cause of the knee pain,” says Matheny. “It may be fine to do lunges but may hurt when you squat. It’s individualized and something each person needs to look into themselves. Often times a proper warmup, stretching, or foam rolling will help alleviate knee pain so you can work out.”
If your bum knees have been holding you back, try adding these glute and leg exercises to your workout routine—they’re great lower-body moves even if you don’t have knee pain, too.
1. MODIFIED SQUAT
How to: Stand as tall as you can with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by pushing your hips back and bending your knees until your butt is parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly push yourself back to the starting position. You can also use a mini band to add some challenge to those inner thighs!
2. SUPINE HIP BRIDGE
How to: Lie on the floor, arms at your sides, knees bent, and heels on the floor. Lift your hips until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for two seconds, then return to start. For more of a challenge, extend one leg toward the ceiling, elevate the heel on a box, or add a dumbbell press.
3. CURTSY LUNGE
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step your right foot back and bend your knees to lower your body until your right knee nearly touches the floor. Push into your left heel and slide your right foot forward to stand. You can also do this move by placing one foot on a slide board, disk, or towel on a wood floor.
4. ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
How to: Hold dumbbells in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Position the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing your body. Keeping your knees slightly bent, press your hips back as you bend at the waist and lower the weights toward the floor. Squeeze your glutes to return to standing. For more of a challenge, try it on one leg.
5. BANDED LATERAL WALK
How to: Place a mini resistance band at your ankles and stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Maintaining a tight core, step your left foot out to the side, followed by your right. Continue for 30 to 40 small steps, keeping tension on the band, then repeat, stepping to the right.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.