Exercising with bowlegs

Dear Alice,

I have bowlegs. It is quite frustrating because I cannot do exercises that isolate and tone the thighs (lunges, squats, etc). When I do squats, my pressure/force comes from the calves and the knees, but not the thighs. Reason being is that the legs are not properly aligned, and pressure/force cannot go up to the thighs. It even hurts when I do squats because they involve bending the (crooked) knees. Are there any alternative thigh exercises?

Dear Reader,

The most important thing to consider is that there's been a shift in mentality on exercise. The days of "no pain, no gain" are long past. Any type of activity that causes pain should not be continued; fortunately there are a number of methods for exercising your thighs — read on.

The exercises that you describe — lunges and squats — employ the gluteus muscles (muscles in the rear end) more than the quadriceps (muscles in the front part of the thigh). Because of the movement required in these exercises, you may experience added strain on the joints of the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. You may also find that running and high impact activities cause similar strain or pain.

It is possible to do exercises to tone your thighs without standing. One idea you might consider, is to spend a little time with a personal trainer. Spending a little one on one time with a fitness professional may have lasting benefits for your training and your comfort. You may also want to consult with your health care provider to determine if it would be appropriate for you to be referred to an orthopedic physician or physical therapist who may recommend orthotics.

Specific exercises that may be better suited for you are varied. An appointment or two with a trainer will help find those that best meet your specific needs. Your trainer may recommend:

  • Leg extensions and leg curls using a machine weights or other types of resistance
  • Use of a physioball to reduce the pressure on your joints
  • Use of resistance bands or other tools best suited to your range of motion

Your frustration is understandable, but can be overcome by consulting with the right people to help you. Some guidance from a trainer or therapist can provide you with the skills necessary to keep up your workout, without the pain.

Last updated Apr 15, 2015
Originally published May 30, 2003

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