Knee pain is a common complaint when exercising. It is a very important and complex joint in the body that involves muscles, bones, menisci, tendons, and ligaments. All of these internal workings help to support the joint.
But how do you exercise in a way which will both strengthen your knee and prevent any additional injury?
- Knee pain while exercising
- Exercises to strengthen the knees
Knee pain when exercising
If there is damage or any stress to the components of the knee joint then you may experience pain and discomfort when exercising. Physical activity such as running, jumping, stretching, and bending can put a lot of strain on the joint in combination with your own body weight.
People who work out intensely and inconsistently are more prone to knee pain than those who exercise more regularly and within their ability. This can lead to conditions developing such as tendonitis.
High-impact sports can lead to more serious injuries, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee. This is common among young people Symptoms of such an injury include pain in the soft tissue and bone around the kneecap. To treat this injury you may require rest and physical therapy, which will help to stabilize the knee joint.
Osteoarthritis may come with age and occurs when the cartilage in your joint has suffered significant wear and tear. More low-impact activities should be undertaken in your work out regime to reduce the pain. this can include swimming, cycling, and using the elliptical.
Strengthening the muscles around the knee joint will help to take the pressure off the joint itself and reduce pain and discomfort while participating in physical activity.
How to strengthen the knees
There are many different exercises you can incorporate into your regime in order to strengthen your knees. The aim of these exercises is to strengthen the muscles around the knees and in the legs so that the joint is kept stable during physical activity.
Some of the best exercises to strengthen the most utilized joint in the body are listed below!
1. Straight leg raises
To work your front quadriceps without bending your knees, straight leg raises are ideal. If bending or loading on your knees is becoming painful then this is also a great exercise to incorporate into your regime.
The quadriceps helps to absorb the shock before reaching the knee joint, reducing pain. It will also lessen the strain on your knee and reduce pain and friction within the joint.
Begin lying flat on your back, one leg bent with the other extended straight in front of you, along the floor. Flex your foot and pull your toes toward you, keeping your knee straight.
Lift your foot roughly six inches off the floor, hold for 3-5 seconds, then lower.
Repeat for 10 to 20 reps.
Once your knees feel stronger, you can try adding weight in the form of a shoe or ankle weight.
2. Glute bridge
To work the entire lower half of the body then the glute bridge is a perfect exercise, focusing on the core. If you focus on strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and core will all help to take the stress off the knee joints and help to stabilize it during workouts.
Begin lying on the floor with your legs bent and feet in line with your hips. Engaging your glutes, lift your butt toward the sky and hold for a beat. Avoid arching your back.
Lower to just above the floor and repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
Once you’re easily doing standard bridges with no knee pain or weakness, try out single-leg bridges by extending one leg out in front of you as you raise and lower.
3. Knee marches
This exercise is similar to the straight leg raises, but is somewhat less strenuous. It focuses on the quadriceps again, preventing downward pressure on the joint.
Grab a chair and sit tall with your feet on the floor. Holding on to the edge of the chair (or on top of lifting knee), lift one leg up toward your chest (keep the knee bent).
Lower and switch sides, alternating for 20 to 30 reps.
You can make these more difficult by adding an ankle weight or shoe.
Clams will assist to strengthen the glutes, This is especially important in removing pressure from the knees. Weakened glute muscles will result in more weight taken by your leg muscles and knee joints. This can lead to pain and discomfort.
Begin lying on your side, propping your head up with your arm. Bend your hips at 45 degrees and your knees at 90 degrees, resting one leg on top of the other.
Now lift your top leg, keeping your toes together. You should feel your glutes engage.
Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg.
5. Heel Raises
Heel raises also strengthen the glutes, but in a different way to clams and other glute exercises. Rather than supporting the knee from the top, calf exercises like the heel raises support the knee joint from the bottom.
This will eventually result in a cushion of muscle surrounding the knee, which aids in mobility and strength. It will also strengthen the stabilizer muscles surrounding the knee, which is because of the balance required to raise up onto the balls of your feet.
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart (you can lightly touch a wall or chair for balance). Rise up onto the balls of your feet, avoiding leaning forward.
Hold for 1 to 2 seconds, then lower. Repeat of 10 to 20 reps.
6. Sit to stand
This is essentially an assisted squat, assisted by a chair, keeping you from putting too much pressure on your weakened knees.
It will work the entire lower body along with the stabilizer muscles that run from the glutes all the way down to your toes. This absorbs shock before it hits the knee joint and reduces strain.
Begin sitting in a stable chair, feet flat on the floor. To stand, engage your glutes and core and push forward and up (you don’t have to launch up or move fast – a normal speed will do).
Return to sitting by placing your weight in your heels and engaging your glutes once more.
Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
You can make this harder by using a lower chair, or by adding some weight in the form of hand weights, or even a backpack. Eventually, you can move on to standard squats.
7. Single-leg dips
This exercise works your thighs, calves, glutes, and hamstrings. At the same time, it challenges your stability muscles which work on your balance.
It strengthens the muscles which support your knee joint and increases both mobility and strength.
Grab yourself two stable chairs and stand between their backs. Rest one hand on each back to help you balance, then extend one leg out in front of you.
Keeping your weight in the heel of your standing leg, slowly lower a few inches.
Raise to standing, then repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg.
Remember to gently touch the backs of the chairs, instead of gripping them. You’ll see the most benefits here when you use as much of your natural balance as possible.
8. Wall squats
As with regular squats, wall squats work the posterior muscles, while also building knee strength. The back is supported by the wall and your knee practically remains in place as you work the surrounding muscles.
This will strengthen the stabilizer muscles reducing strain on the knee joints, as these muscles absorb the impact and pressure while working out.
Begin standing against a wall or other flat surface. Step your feet out, hip-width apart, roughly two feet in front of you. Slide your butt down until your hips are parallel with your knees.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times.
In this exercise, don’t slide down below your knees or let your knees come over your toes. This will actually end up putting more strain on your knee joints.
To strengthen the posterior chain the deadlift is a great strengthening exercise. This includes the muscle running down the backside.
This is inclusive of the glutes and hamstrings, each of which helps in a different way to straighten and stabilize the knee joints. This is why deadlifts are an excellent exercise for your knee-strengthening routine.
Begin standing tall, holding a light pair of dumbbells at your hips. Your knees should be just slightly bent. Now, bend forward, keeping the dumbbells in front of your hips. Push your hips back as you do this, avoiding letting your shoulders round forward.
Once you’ve lowered just below your knees, engage your glutes and hamstrings and return to standing.
Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
Gradually try adding more weight to your deadlifts. Eventually, you’ll be able to progress to using a barbell, rather than dumbbells.