Knee Popping When You Workout?

Let’s set the scene:

You just woke up and you head to the gym. You’re feeling great from a weekend off in Atlanta and you can’t wait to hit a squat workout! Coach welcomes you into class and the first warm-up movement is squats. You set your feet, push your hips back, and then on the way down you hear what sounds like bubble wrap in your knee! That’s it, you’re old, all hope is lost. Time to start watching Jeopardy and yelling at your children when they try to turn it off saying “I was just resting my eyes.” 

Or is it?

Joints popping and cracking is nothing new. But it can always be new to you as it is something that tends to pop up with age. If you feel pain when this happens, stop reading this and see your doctor (this could be the sign of cartilage damage or meniscus tearing). If you don’t and its just annoying, let’s talk about what’s going on and some ways to actually remedy this issue!

Pop it!

What exactly does it mean when your knee is popping. Well if there is no pain, we tend to be talking about crepitus, or “joint noise.” This occurs in your knee when carbon dioxide builds up in a joint and creates a bubble in the joint (cavitation). When we put a joint through a sudden change of pressure (i.e. bending your knee), those bubbles well…POP!

Yup, as you age your knee becomes bubble wrap. But…why?

You Didn’t Get Weaker. They Got Stronger!

As we go on through life, our bodies adapt to the environments we put them in. If we sit a lot, our bodies make our bodies really good at sitting. If we stand a lot, we will become really good at standing. 

The problem is that in order to do that, our bodies will tighten certain muscles or not build others. For knee popping, a pretty common cause is that they central muscle to your quads, the “Rectus Femoris,” becomes tight enough to pull back on your knee and make space in the joint so that carbon dioxide can create those bubbles in the synovial fluid of your knee!

Give This A Try!

Well, if you’re having trouble with some benign knee popping give this routine a try!

11 Minute Knee Pop Reduction Routine

10 Full Depth Air Squats (Baseline)

2 Minutes Couch Stretch Right

2 Minutes Couch Stretch Left

2 Minutes Pigeon Left

2 Minutes Pigeon Right

2 Minutes Saddle Stretch

10 Full Depth Air Squats (Test for Improvement)

Make sure to not do this before a workout as stretching too long before exercise can increase the risk of injury. Try it in the morning or just before bed! If you’re strapped for time, give it a go after your workout. Stay consistent and give it a go at least 3 times per week. You could reduce or eliminate knee popping all together. 

This is the routine that helped my knees stop popping after having to sit in a chair for 10 hours a day for two months during the pandemic lockdown. After doing some research and working on these stretches, my knees stopped popping after exercising regularly and doing these stretches. Almost 2 years on now, my knees haven’t popped during a workout since. 

If you’re still having trouble with benign knee popping, it may be the result of other muscles that can pull on the knee. If that’s the case, talk with a coach and we can work on a routine that is specifically for you. 

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