Exercise Sequence For Joint Pain

I hear complaints from young and old lifters alike who suffer chronic joint pain  in the gym. They can’t train biceps and triceps with isolation movements because their elbows hurt, or they can’t squat up to a heavy weight before their knees start to ache.

There’s a solution that works more often than not, and it’s not some fancy ointment shipped from India or one of those over-the-counter joint remedies.

It’s Exercise Sequence!

Take for example, a typical tricep isolation routine. Skullcrushers will wreck your elbows when doing them first, but put them last, and they feel totally smooth with no debilitating elbow pain. Start instead with low load pushdowns (rope or bar), pyramid up in weight on those over 6+ sets, and you’ll fill the tricep and elbow joint with blood, better protecting it for the sets to follow.

If your knees cripple your leg workouts, work your hamstrings first instead of jumping right into squats. Do some sort of hamstring focused leg curl to start your leg workout like the below video explains…

YouTube video

I’d follow those up with some light quad work, whether that be leg extensions that pyramid up in weight (don’t start too heavy), goblet squats (good for getting your form perfect) or some step-ups/box jumps. Once you have a good quad pump, then move into squats and your heavier movements. Your knee joint will thank you.

I’d also recommend buying some proper-fitting knee sleeves for additional support. Tommy Kono and Rehband are two brands I frequently hear recommended. I have a pair of Grizzly Fitness sleeves that work fairly well, though I had to cut a slit in the bottom of the large size to fit over my calf. I’m fat down there.

For more tips on alleviating knee pain, read Mike Robertson’s 18 Tips for Bulletproof Knees

For shoulders and chest, don’t move right into your heavy pressing movements. Start with a machine press or dumbbell movement (flat DB press, side laterals etc.).

Footnote: If the exercise still causes you pain, find an alternative. There’s too many options out there to suffer through one that causes you the bad kind of pain. Spend some time surfing YouTube and you’ll have an exercise catalogue in no time.

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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.