A bad knee can ruin the best-laid plans for an active weekend, get in the way of your walk to the park, or even leave you in excruciating pain. That is why you need to get smart by exercising safely and strengthening your knees. Best picks include - knee bends, heel cord stretch, toe flex, knee press, mini squats, hamstring curls, and leg extensions.
If you’re an active person or are into fitness, you probably spend hours working out your abs and glutes. And if a sedentary lifestyle is more your thing or you struggle with being overweight, your knees probably bear the brunt of that extra weight. A bad knee can ruin the best-laid plans for an active weekend, get in the way of your walk to the park, or even leave you in excruciating pain. It may be high time you gave your knees some TLC. Our knees bear much of the load we carry, including our own body weight. And like any part of the body, they need the right care to stay in top form and to keep supporting your lifestyle.
Here are some exercises to help them stay strong or to help you regain full function of your knees if they are weak or recovering from injury. These can strengthen your knee muscles, lower pressure and strain on the knee joint, and improve shock absorption capabilities. Muscles to focus on include the quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, and adductors, which are in the front, back, inner, and outer thigh, in addition to the buttock muscles.1
Before you dive into any workout (including the exercises here), and especially if you have knee trouble, get a go-ahead from your doctor or therapist. Warm up before you do any knee exercises – a gentle walk should be adequate. Once you do begin the exercises, don’t overdo it. Start small and build up repetitions as you improve your strength. If at any point, you experience pain beyond just gentle aches from exertion, stop that particular exercise immediately. Remember, soreness is fine but pain is not. Also, stretch after you are done to prevent soreness and injury and to restore full range of motion.2
Some knee exercises need no fancy props and are easy to do at home.
Knee bends: Stand a little away from a wall with your back to it and your feet hip-distance apart. You may need to keep the feet gently pointing out for comfort. Now pretend you are getting into a seated position on the chair, using the wall as the back of the chair. Slide yourself downwards with your knees bending as you lower. Then try and stand up again. You should also feel the tension in the buttocks as you get up.3
Heel cord stretch: Face the wall with the stronger leg to the front, bent gently at the knee. The other leg should be extended straight behind. Keep the heels of your feet flat. Now focus on pushing your hips forward in the direction of the wall. You should feel a stretch. Stay in this position for a full 30 seconds. Then let your body relax for the same amount of time before the next repetition on the same leg. Switch to the other leg if you need to work on both knees.4
Lie Down For These Exercises
Toe flex: One exercise suggested by the Orthopedic physiotherapy team at Southampton General Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust, involves lying down. Get into a comfortable position, lying down on your back. Simply flex your toes backward so the knee gets pressed into the floor, bed, or mat you are lying on. Stay in this pulled-back position for ten-second spells, repeating about 20 times.5
Knee press: Another exercise for a weak knee involves wedging a rolled up blanket or pillow below your weak knee. Then, start pressing that knee into the blanket while simultaneously making sure your heel rises up off the bed/floor. The other leg remains flat on the ground throughout. Do this about 15 times, holding the position for about ten seconds at a time. Swap the blanket to the other knee to work on both knees and repeat, this time keeping the weak knee flat on the ground.6
Grab A Chair
Here are some easy knee exercises you could do with the help of a chair.
Mini squats: Stand erect behind a chair, holding it with your hands. Keep your feet flat and shoulder-width apart and start lowering yourself a few inches, taking care that your knees don’t bend beyond your toes. Hold this mini squat for about five to six seconds. Return to your standing position, tightening the muscles of your buttocks as you ease your knees back up to a straight position.7
Hamstring curls: Hold the chair and stand in a comfortable, balanced position. Start to bend your weaker knee back up so your heel lifts off the ground, going as far back as you can without hurting yourself. If you feel pain, you are bending it too much. Hold the position for about five seconds before releasing gently into a relaxed position. You could do this with the other leg if you need to strengthen both knees.8
Leg extensions: Sit on the chair and tighten up the muscles of your thigh. Lift your weaker leg, straightening as you go and taking it as high as is comfortable. Once in the highest position you can manage without pain, squeeze the thigh muscles and stay in this position for around five seconds before relaxing back with your foot touching the floor.9
References [ + ]
|1, 8, 9.||↑||Knee Conditioning Program, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.|
|2, 4.||↑||Knee Exercises, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.|
|3.||↑||Knee Exercises for Runners, NHS.|
|5.||↑||Knee Strengthening Exercises, NHS.|
|6.||↑||Knee strengthening exercises, NHS.|
|7.||↑||6 Exercises For Knee Pain, Arthritis Foundation.|