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Knee pain and 30 Day Shred

I recently received an email from someone asking me if I could suggest any alternatives to the 30 Day Shred workout, because although she loves the results, she doesn’t love the ongoing knee pain she’s experiencing.

Aching knees are a common complaint about 30 Day Shred, particularly if you aren’t used to working out that strenuously. It may be a short program, but if you’ve tried it, you know it’s definitely not easy. There are a number of possibilities for why your knees may be hurting—and if things are REALLY uncomfortable, like you can’t bear weight on your knee or you have visible swelling, you should absolutely see a doctor to figure out what’s going on—but the likely culprit is inflammation caused by over-fatigued supporting muscles.

People tend to think they have bad knees when in fact what they have are weak legs. If the muscles that support your knees aren’t adequately supporting the knee joint or absorbing shock before it gets to the knee, the extra stress placed upon your knee can cause injury. Muscles and tendons get inflamed, things hurt, you end up throwing the DVD out the window because hey, this sucks.

The main muscle groups affecting knee stability are your quadriceps and hamstrings, and to a lesser degree, your calf muscles and hip abductors. If you think about the lower-body exercises you’re doing in 30DS—the lunges, squats, jumps, etc—you’re really working the hell out of all those muscles. Which is a good thing! Except if some of those muscle groups get tired too soon, or simply don’t have enough strength, your knees may not be stabilized properly during your workout. The kneecap can pull and twist to the side because the supporting muscles aren’t holding it in place.

Most knee pain can be corrected. What you want to do is two things: 1) strengthen the muscles that support the knee, and 2) stretch those muscles. Some handy links:

Knee Strengthening Exercises
11 Exercises that Help Decrease Knee Pain
Knee Pain: Exercises You Can Do at Work

Stretches for the Knee
Knee Pain: 5 Effective Stretches

Everyone’s pain tolerance is different and I am most definitely not a medical expert, so I can’t say whether or not you should stop doing 30DS altogether if it makes your knees hurt. I would say that it’s probably worth your while to put some time into strengthening your legs regardless of whether you continue with 30DS, because it will help you avoid knee injury in the future. One idea would be to switch to a non-weight-bearing exercise for a while (like biking or swimming), while separately working on increasing leg strength and flexibility.

Dealing with any existing knee pain so you can incorporate impact/weight-bearing exercises into your fitness routine not only opens up your fitness choices, but may also be a key factor in enhancing your bone health. Plus, it’ll help you be more capable of doing your usual daily activities, like hauling tantruming children from place to place, getting down on the floor to fish LEGOs from underneath the highchair, catching toddlers as they plummet off couches, etc.

29 Responses to “Knee pain and 30 Day Shred”

  1. Eric's Mommy Says:

    OMG, that is totally the problem I am having with 30DS, I also have the same pain in my shoulders. This does make me feel better though, knowing that the problem is probably not my knees and shoulders but the muscles.

    I do know my knees are not the greatest though. They make crackeling/popping sounds when I bend down and stand up.

  2. wn Says:

    Interesting….I really found that only Level 1 caused me significant knee pain. Now I’m not sure if this is because Level 1 is that much more of a shock to the system or because Level 1 is that much more bend-intensive…but after a break for my knee…I went to Level 2 and did not have that problem at all.

  3. Linda Says:

    EM: my knees have made INSANE, AWFUL crunching noises for years. A doctor told me it’s likely the cartilage surface of my knee. My knees used to hurt quite a bit during/after exertion, but over the last year as I’ve worked out more and more, they rarely do any more.

  4. maggie Says:

    I’ve always thought I had bad knees because of crunching sounds, pain etc. Level 1 was bad and Level 2 KILLED. A lot of times I couldn’t even ATTEMPT the pendulum lunges. Then I realized I could do them SLOWLY, like half-Jillian-speed and there was a huge difference. I didn’t stop doing the 30DS, just sort of slowed down when I needed to. Now I’m on Level 3 and my knees only hurt when I bang them into the floor on the jumping lunges. I say slow down, don’t go as deep, but keep at it!

  5. Linda Says:

    Maggie: that’s a great suggestion, to go slower/more shallow with those moves. Also very important to make sure you have proper form during lunges — knees should be directly above the feet, not sticking out in front. A good tip is to take a bigger step out than you think you should.

    And dude, be careful on the plyo lunges — knees should definitely not be banging into the floor! : )

  6. Karen Says:

    Wow, thanks for posting all of these links (from someone who DOES have true knee problems). My orthopedist has told me that really biking and swimming are my only options :(

    In need of variety, I’ve thought of trying 30DS… so it’s good to know that I should probably not try it until I know my knees are in better shape.

    Can’t wait to get a few minutes alone so I can check out those links and add them to my workouts. Thanks!

  7. Sarah Says:

    The other day I googled knee physiotherapy because I was worried about my knees. (This from doing C25K). Thank you so much. I’m definitely going to try these now and not give up on the running.

  8. MEP Says:

    I like the 30-Day Shred workouts, but one big beef I have with Jillian (along with the fact that half the time her moves are not in time with her music, and some of the moves would be more effective if they were slowed way down) is that she doesn’t emphasize proper form and joint safety in her workouts. She’s motivating in a tough-love sort of way, but REALLY needs to spend more time talking about the importance of good form, the difference between “good” and “bad” pain during a workout, and giving the whole “do as much as is comfortable for you” spiel — especially since her target audience is exercise beginners.

  9. Kaitlin Says:

    My knees were KILLING me after a few days of 30DS. I just ordered the Physique 57 DVDs (www.physique57.com) as a replacement and I absolutely LOVE them so far. It is still a really tough workout, but super easy on the knees.

  10. Lesley Says:

    I found I had to back off doing the same Jillian workout every day. When I started with 30-D Shred, she has the message “see you tomorrow” which suggests you should be doing her workout every day, but for me this lead to repetitive strain in some places.

    I alternate No More Trouble Zones with Banish Fat Boost Metabolism and sometimes switch it up with a Chalene workout (Like Body Blast using the ball) though I find her workouts less challenging now. I do like her Lower Body Jam though. It’s a good one for the legs.

    It’s really important to not extend the knee past the ankle and if the knee is really hurting, just to give it a rest and maybe do a yoga workout. Sometimes knee pain is related to another part of the body being out of wack. So a good stretch eased into, can help readjust the knee. Pilates is good for this too, though I don’t recommend doing Pilates from a DVD, but a qualified instructor.

  11. Carolyn J. Says:

    I tried Jillian’s other videos and gave up when I saw so much jumping. I also didn’t like her attitude about it, which was that you should work through the pain and bigger people than you have done it, so suck it up.

    And if you have knee problems and are in pain, don’t replace your workouts with cycling. It is quite intense on the knees. I learned that the hard way.

  12. Lesley Says:

    Carolyn, to be fair, Jillian doesn’t mean work through injury. Jumping is actually very effective resistance and aerobic training but you need good shoes and a reasonably soft landing surface (carpeting or a mat).

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  23. Lydia Says:

    My knees never hurt with the 30 day shred. I injured it through my own stupidity… I’m 200lbs and this is my 3rd time doing the shred. Do everything right and you will not hurt your knees. I’m doing the shred again and modifying some moves for my sore knee. The jumping things don’t hurt, it’s the bending…

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