Functional exercises like deadlifts can damage the cartilage and tendons in the knees if done improperly.
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Functional movements such as deadlifts come highly endorsed by fitness enthusiasts but are sometimes avoided by lifters if they cause knee pain. While not all people who deadlift experience aching or sore knees after performing deadlifts, damaging your tendons and cartilage can happen easily. Changing your form and stance during deadlifts, lifting the appropriate weight and limiting the number of deadlifts performed can prevent injury to the tendons and cartilage in the knees.
Alternate Body Stance
Deadlifts vary in their form, with two main positions for your feet. Either you balance the weight with your feet firmly planted on the floor or lift yourself onto your toes. While balancing on your toes exercises the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thighs, this stance puts excessive pressure on your knees and increases the potential for knee damage and pain. Instead, choosing to deadlift with your feet placed firmly on the floor exerts force evenly on your upper thighs, lower back and gluteous muscles, lessening the strain on your knees.
The Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise published a study in 1991 that compared the pressure on the knees of powerlifters competing in a national championship. The form of lifting which significantly reduced joint strain was the sumo deadlift style. In the sumo style of deadlifts, you stand with your feet about two feet apart and grab the weight bar just inside of your ankles. This style of deadlifts keeps the weight close to your body and lessens knee strain.
Deadlifts using excessive weight increase the force exerted on your lower back and knees, creating two areas of potential injury. Sticking to a recommended lifting weight range decreases your risk of injury. Recommended deadlift weights vary depending on gender, body weight and level of training as stated in "Practical Programming For Strength Training." If untrained at deadlifts, men can safely lift up to 133 percent of their body weight and women can safely lift up to 101 percent. For intermediate athletes, these percentages increase to 150 for men and 118 for women. Advanced lifters may increase up to 210 percent for men and 160 percent for women. However, if unsure about your fitness level, consulting with a trainer may give you a number specific to your level of training. If you're interested in deadlifts, adhering to these standards can help prevent both back and knee pain as well as injury.
Chronic Overuse Causes Injury
Even when proper form and weight are accounted for, knee pain may still be present due to overuse. Repeating the same motion constantly leads to wear and tear on the joints. Overuse injuries are especially common in the knees since you rely on your knees for many activities. Limiting the number of deadlifts and resting when irritation or pain occurs prevents injury to the knees.