Strength and Conditioning for Strong Knees
The knees are the largest and most complex joint in the human body. They are also the most vulnerable because they carry the weight of the body. They provide additional extension, rotation and flexibility that are used in everyday activities such as walking. Strong knees also improve balance, prevent injury and reduce joint stress. For these reasons having strong, flexible muscles is the best way to keep the knees healthy and prevent injury. To get strong knees, you must perform exercises that target the muscles surrounding the knees. These muscles include the hamstrings (back of the thigh), quadriceps (front of the thigh), abductors (outer thigh), adductors (inner thigh), the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus (buttocks), and the calf muscles. You should also perform stabilizing exercises to improve your balance. Strengthening the muscles that support your knees will reduce stress on your knee joints and help your knees absorb shock.
Some exercises include:
Strengthening exercises build muscles to help support your knees and improve balance, but these exercises also tighten the muscles. Tight muscles are more susceptible to injury. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends stretching after strengthening exercises to reduce muscle soreness and to keep muscles long and flexible. Stretching your muscles is important for joint function, which maximizes mobility, so add some stretching exercises to your daily routine.
Some stretches include:
Whichever exercises you decide to use to stretch, the important thing is to keep doing it. Start strengthening and conditioning the targeted muscle groups to improve the health of your knees. You don’t need a gym to perform these exercises. All of the exercises mentioned above can be performed in the comfort of your home.
Here are five tips to get you started:
1. Start slow. Building muscle strength takes time.
2. Do not ignore pain. You should not feel serious pain during an exercise. You might feel discomfort. If an exercise hurts, stop the exercise. If you do have pain, talk to your doctor or personal trainer to ensure you are ready for exercise and/or are doing the exercise correctly.
3. Warm up. Warming up before exercise helps control inflammation and enhance range of motion.
4. Do the exercise on both legs. It’s important to strengthen both legs to improve balance.
5. Stay active. For healthy knees, get regular daily activity; keep the joint moving through a full range of motion.
Bottom Line: Taking care of your knees from an early age and maintaining their strength is important in order to stay active throughout your life. Strengthening and stretching the muscles surrounding the knees has many health benefits. To prevent injury, it’s imperative to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine.
Written by: Lisha Andrew, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern