I work with several clients who have bad knees and use peloton. This means I had to go thru hundreds of classes to be able to recommend with confidence the ones that are pain-free.
Today, I will show you some of the best peloton rides that can help you with your knee problem.
In general, a peloton is good for people with bad knees because it helps to train while minimizing the pressure on the kneecap. People who have knee problems and cannot do certain exercises (e.g. running) can use cycling as an alternative training method.
Here you have my overall answer but to learn more about which classes you should take (and which to avoid), keep reading.
Best Peloton classes for bad knees
Knee pain doesn’t mean you cannot add resistance and ride with high intensity. It means you have to be mindful of how you put pressure on the leg.
Not all the peloton classes are created equal. People who have knee pain should pick the classes that are seated.
- Most peloton out of saddle classes are effective in increasing your heart rate and burning calories, but they also put some pressure on your kneecap.
- On the other hand, when you seat on the bike (not standing), you have the most optimal biomechanics that allows you to press the pedal from your heels, which takes the pressure off your knees.
However, you also need to have your seat set up correctly (more on that later).
Here is the list.
1. Pro Cyclist Ride (30 minutes)
Pro cyclist ride is a series of classes led by Christian Vande Velde, the Tour de France champion. I like this workout because it’s challenging, yet knee-friendly.
- I recommend you go for 30 minutes. To be clear, I’m not saying to avoid longer rides becasue of the difficulty level.
- I recommend sticking to the 30-minute rides because they don’t have much movement when you’re out of the saddle, compared to 45-minute rides.
This class is perfect for people with knee pain because you can still push the intensity, without moving around and adding pressure on your knee.
How to find
Pro cyclist ride is a separate category.
- You can find this class when you go to the “Cycling” section and use “filter” tab.
- Next, select the “Class Type” and scroll down until you find “Pro Cyclist”.
- Press “Select” and choose any 30-minute ride.
2. HIIT Ride (20 minutes)
HIIT Ride classes are usually mixed up with standing and saddle positions. However, Christine D’ercole has a 20-minute HIIT Ride where she introduces high-intensity components without standing off the saddle.
This class is perfect because it allows you to focus on the work, and forget about the knee issue.
The duration is 20 minutes so it can be done either as your main workout or in combination with other classes.
How to find
To find Christine D’ercole HIIT classes you will need to use two filters.
- You can find this class when you go to the “Cycling” section and use the “filter” tab.
- Then, select the “Class Type” and scroll down until you find “Interval”.
- There are over 3,000 interval rides so to find the right one, use another filter “Instructor” and select “Christi”.
- Press “Select” and it will show you over 30 HIIT classes, which are almost all 30-minutes.
3. Low Impact Ride (45 minutes)
In general, the peloton low impact ride is effective for people with knee pain because all of the classes are seated.
Apart from being knee-friendly, this class is all about heart rate zone 2, an excellent choice for people who want to burn more calories.
This is not an easy workout. Each class starts with a steady pace but gradually builds up the intensity while staying in the saddle.
For beginners, if you use bike+, I recommend using peloton auto resistance and just enjoy the ride. However, if you feel like you can put some elbow grease, feel free to ramp up the resistance and cadence on your own.
I also recommend choosing 45 minutes, however, feel free to adjust the duration to fit your fitness level.
What I like about this class is it helps to get you “started” and build up muscle strength before you move on to more challenging sessions.
How to find
There are over 1,000 peloton low-impact rides so you have a lot of classes to choose from.
- Go to the “Cycling” section and use the “filter” tab.
- Select the “Class Type” and scroll down until you find “Low Impact”.
- You can filter further by duration, music, favorite instructor, and more.
4. Power Zone Endurance Ride (60 minutes)
Power Zone Endurance Ride is another great option for people with bad knees because it offers intermediate to advance intensity while keeping you seated throughout the class.
There are many peloton power zone classes, but endurance is all about maintaining your intensity level the same throughout the class.
Class duration ranges from 15 to 90 minutes and is all designed to work on your muscle endurance and stamina.
I recommend this class to most of my clients, regardless if they have knee pain or not. In fact, I’ve included this workout as of the best peloton classes for weight loss available in the app.
How to find
To find power zone endurance rides you will need to use two filters. Currently, there are over 580 peloton power zone classes available and to get “Endurance Rides” you need to use the second “Length” filter.
- Go to the “Cycling” tab and use the “filter”.
- Select the “Class Type” and select “Power Zone”.
- Next, use the “Length” filter and choose classes that are 30-minutes or longer.
Keep in mind that in peloton power zone classes you can see your “power zone level” displayed on the bike console.
To do it, you need to first complete a peloton FTP test, which will unlock the power bar menu on your bike.
5. Climb Ride (20 minutes)
In general, the peloton climb rides is a series of classes where you don’t go super fast. Instead, you add progressively more resistance. This is excellent way to build muscle in your legs to strengthen your knees.
Unfortunately, most climb rides are a combination of standing and sitting.
However, I noticed that Jenn Sherman (Peloton’s very first cycling instructor) does most of her classes in the saddle.
Jenn stays low all the time, and she really cranks up the resistance. Cadence is low and the music is extremely good.
If you like to sweat, you will love this class. By all means, this is not a beginner workout.
How to find
Again, to find Jenn Sherman Climb rides you will need to use two filters.
- Move on to the “Cycling” tab and use the “filter”.
- Select the “Class Type” and select “Climb”.
- Next, use the “Instructor” filter and choose “Jenn”.
- Pick any 20-minute class (Sadly, Jenn has only 13 Climb rides so there is not much choice.)
Does Peloton hurt your knees?
Yes and no. It depends on how you use it.
On the one hand, studies have shown that a stationary bike is an effective alternative for people with knee osteoarthritis and knee pain, despite the level of intensity.
Kathleen Kline Mangione, Ph.D., a professor of physical therapy from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania says “Both low-intensity and high-intensity cycling was equally effective in decreasing pain.”
“Cycling not only reduced acute knee pain but also improved people’s leg strength, as well as aerobic capacity and walking speed,” says Dr. Mangione.
(I’ve seen Dr. Mangione’s research at one of the international conferences. She is an expert on exercise in older adults, frailty, and hip fracture.)
On the other hand, I’ve spoken with many people who said that it kind of hurts their knees when they use their peloton.
So why do my knees hurt on the Peloton?
In general, there are many things that can contribute to knee pain after riding the bike.
- Incorrect bike setup (See the tutorial video below that explains how to set up your seat and handlebar.)
- Incorrect riding technique (bouncing too far to the side can also put unnecessary pressure on the knee.)
- Previous injury or muscle soreness (riding the bike every day can often cause tension in the IT band and hip flexors, which can pull on the patellar tendon.)
- Also, if someone has severe knee issues like arthritis that is causing wear-and-tear of the joint (I recommend reducing the cadence and focusing only on the low-intensity rides.)
Check your seat and handlebar position
In most cases, having knee pain on the peloton bike is due to the incorrect setup of handlebars and the seat.
When the seat is adjusted correctly, the knee ligaments can be relieved from the pressure.
On the other hand, when the seat is placed too low, too close, or too far away from the pedals, pressure is applied to the knee.
More specifically, to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), the capsular ligaments, and the posterior structures of the knee joint.
Setting up the seat will place you in the position where you put minimum pressure on the knees.
How to adjust Peloton for knee pain
Here is the aforementioned video tutorial with the basic guidelines for adjusting the peloton bike seat to avoid excessive pressure on the knee.
1. Seat height
- Stand next to the bike to adjust the seat.
- Your seat height should be around your hip bone level. This will allow you to extend your knee by around 15-20 degrees.
- This will also help to engage the glutes and reduce pressure on the knee cap.
- Hop on the bike and do some revolutions to assess how it feels.
- Once you find the right height, mark it down for future reference.
2. Seat distance
- Bend your arm in your elbow at 90 degrees and position your elbow in front of your seat.
- Keep your palm open with your fingers pointing forward.
- Your hand should be able to reach comfortably to the handlebar.
- The seat distance should be right in the middle where your knee doesn’t go over the pedals and you cycle.
- If the handlebar is too close, this will make your knees go over the pedals as you cycle and put pressure on the posterior knee.
- If the handlebar is too far, it will create pressure on the anterior knee.
Peloton knee pain after seat adjustment
Some people may still experience knee pain, even after they changed their bike seat position.
If you’re having knee pain, despite setting up the bike properly, I would recommend getting a professional, in-person fitting.
I don’t recommend going to stores like Target. These guys at the stores are minimally trained in bike fitting. I recommend spending extra cash on a pro.
More tips on how to avoid knee pain on the peloton
Okay, so you tried to set up the bike but still have knee pain? It happens.
One of the ways to avoid this problem is to ensure your pedals and cleats are positioned in a straight direction.
If you’re using Delta cleats, chances are your pedals and cleats may not be positioned correctly.
- If the cleats are moved too far left or right, this can cause your feet to point slightly in, which can cause medial and posterior pressure on the knee, as well as the ankle.
- On the other hand, if the pedals and cleats are set up in the right way, it puts the foot in a safe position.
How to adjust Peloton Delta cleats for knee pain
Normally, if you ride the bike with peloton toe cages, you have some degree of flexibility in your foot and ankle.
However, the moment you clip your cycling shoes to the pedals, you have to make sure you’re in the biomechanically efficient position.
Delta cleats help to generate higher output not only when you press the leg forward, but also when you pull the leg back.
This helps to do the harder work easier, but when you have bad knees you must ensure the setup is done right.
In the video below you can see how to adjust peloton cleats correctly.
- Adjust the position of the cleats to be in line with the balls of your foot.
- This will position your balls of the foot directly above the pedal spindle of your bike.
If the pain persists, despite regulating your cleats and pedals, it’s better to see a physical therapist or another medical professional that might be able to advise you on what is going on and propose a solution.
I’m a short guy (under 5’8) and used to ride at seat level 20. My wife is 5’6, and she uses seat level 17.
I noticed that when I jump on the bike immediately after her, my knee started to hurt. I also noticed I was getting hip pain after using the peloton.
So from my experience, the knee pain is almost always due to the seat level. However, there can be literally dozens of reasons why your knees feel bad, unrelated to your bike.
If the pain is acute (meaning, you didn’t have it before), most likely it is due to bike setup so go ahead and call for a professional bike fitter.
If the pain is chronic and you had it before the peloton, I recommend seeing a health professional or PT.
- Peloton bike is great exercise equipment that can help you get active even with knee problems.
- The most important factors are choosing the right class and making sure your bike is set up correctly.
- Using a peloton without adjusting the seat, pedals, and cleats can cause knee pain.