If you are a strength training bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast, you will have some concerns when making the decision to undergo knee replacement. After all, some physical restrictions will be placed on you, such as not playing high-impact sports or running, as they will only shorten the lifespan of the prosthesis.
When it comes to bodybuilding, there really aren’t too many contradictions regarding exercises that you can’t complete. Therefore, you should be able to continue your bodybuilding without jeopardizing your surgical knee if you use some restriction on the amount of weight you intend to lift.
I have used the following exercise for my legs to keep them strong and to prevent muscle atrophy from developing, which is something that anyone involved in bodybuilding knows all too well.
Leg press: I use the leg press more often than the squat because the weight is balanced more properly and I can focus on the quads more effectively.
The intention when it comes to lifting weights with the affected leg is to stimulate the muscles involved, not necessarily the amount of weight someone can lift.
The leg press allows you to maintain control of your body so that you can fully focus on the surgical leg. I like to use the leg press as it allows me to build more muscular endurance in my leg without sacrificing form and preparing for injury.
The squat: Yes, I have found that you can still squat effectively, however you must use common sense. The days before surgery where you have placed 400-550 pounds on a bar are not recommended. You can still squat safely in parallel or even a little deeper, however the weight used should be something that you can safely use for 12-15 reps. The amount of weight someone uses will, of course, be different, but keeping the weight no more than 225 pounds may be acceptable.
Putting too much weight consistently with the squat can cause a tear around the prosthesis and lead to component loosening. The weakest link with a knee replacement will be the cement that the surgeon will use to hold the knee components in place. Using excessive weight for long periods of time can cause loosening.
Hamstring exercises: Basically all hamstring exercises are allowed and I think none of them have caused any harm with my knee replacement in over 14 years. The same goes for calf muscle routines. The important thing to remember is that keeping your weight selection modest is key.
Really, to my knowledge, there have been no studies done on how much weight a person can use when strength training on a knee replacement and if you ask your surgeon, unless they are active bodybuilders, they will not have any advice for you more than not lift!
So don’t fear that your weightlifting or bodybuilding days are over just because you’ve had a knee replaced. Just get a little more creative in your weight selection and find other ways to fatigue those quads and hamstrings, like using shorter rest periods or compound sets in the future.