Strengthen your knees

Here are six drills to con­struct in­de­struc­tible knees

Owner Driver - - Health & Fitness - Steve Roberts

HAVE YOU EVER heard some­one (or your­self) say: “Can’t do it mate, I’ve got dicky knees”? As an ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist work­ing with pri­mar­ily ac­tive mid­dle-aged adults (over 40) that love to play the odd game of touch footy, ten­nis, hik­ing and travel, I see more and more the “ac­cep­tance” in get­ting knee re­place­ment surgery first hand or avoid­ance of fix­ing the prob­lem.

A re­port I read said that knee re­place­ment surgery has be­come one of the most com­mon ma­jor orthopaedic surg­eries per­formed.

The rise can be at­trib­uted to ag­ing baby boomers – but also re­flects a rise in obe­sity rates and an un­will­ing­ness to live with pain or dis­abil­ity. Some ac­tive in­di­vid­u­als with health in­sur­ance, fi­nan­cial re­sources and sup­port opt into re­ceiv­ing a new knee. The good news is that surgery can be de­layed and even avoided en­tirely with an ef­fec­tive ex­er­cise pro­gram per­formed reg­u­larly.

De­bil­i­tat­ing knee in­juries or pain have al­ways led to a de­crease in ac­tiv­ity lev­els due to the pain ex­pe­ri­enced while stand­ing, walk­ing or tak­ing stairs. Th­ese ba­sic lo­co­mo­tive move­ments are the fun­da­men­tal es­sen­tials for ac­tiv­ity. With a de­crease in ac­tiv­ity lev­els, one will ex­pe­ri­ence an in­crease in fat lev­els, low­ered car­diac-work ca­pac­ity and de­creased strength lev­els (mainly in lower body). As an in­di­vid­ual be­comes more de-con­di­tioned, ex­pect changes in men­tal health — specif­i­cally de­pres­sion and en­ergy lev­els.

Most peo­ple think that to strengthen the knees, one must con­cen­trate on the ac­tual knees. Seems nor­mal but the knees are highly in­flu­enced by the mus­cu­la­ture sur­round­ing them. This co­in­cides with the joints above and be­low the knees. The knee joint is the cen­tre joint be­tween the an­kle and hip joint. There are key mus­cles around th­ese joints that we can tar­get to help strengthen the knees.

STRENGTHEN YOUR KNEES PRO­GRAM

Some of the ex­er­cises can be placed within your cur­rent pro­gram. They can be per­formed on up­per-body train­ing, lower-body days or even car­dio days.

I like to add them in dur­ing warm-up pe­ri­ods be­fore cer­tain lifts and also dur­ing re­cov­ery sets.

DRILL #1: Rolling with mas­sage stick on lat­eral thighs

How to per­form: With the mas­sage stick or dowel, roll the hip flex­ors, out­side “sweep” of thigh and psoas area – by vary­ing the amount of pres­sure you use with the stick. Time: Time spent rolling de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual tol­er­ance lev­els and de­gree of tis­sue qual­ity. Be­gin with 20 to 45 sec­onds. Per­form daily.

Coach­ing cues: You can slowly bend the knee as you fo­cus on the area around the lat­eral as­pect of it.

DRILL #2: SMR with ten­nis ball, golf ball or spiky mas­sage ball on foot bot­tom

How to per­form: Us­ing a ten­nis ball, golf ball or spiky mas­sage ball, stand on the ball and per­form cir­cu­lar and lin­ear pat­terns along foot bot­tom. Fo­cus on ten­der ar­eas and vary the amount of pres­sure you place.

Time: Be­gin with 45 to 60 sec­onds. Per­form daily.

Coach­ing cues: Vary your pres­sure by shift­ing your body­weight to each leg.

DRILL #3: Supine ham­string stretch with band

How to per­form: Ly­ing on your back, place a band, rope or strap around your foot. Raise your leg up and keep a “soft” knee. Press your hips into the floor. As you use some ex­er­tion to stretch your leg up to­wards your torso, feel the “pull” of the band and re­lax the mus­cle. Then, con­tract the ham­string and drive the leg down. Al­low the band to pull the leg back up each round. You can also an­gle your leg to tar­get the groin and in­ner thigh.

Time: Per­form reps of 6 to 8 per leg. Re­peat 2x. Coach­ing cues: Keep your hips down to iso­late the ham­string. Do not let the op­po­site leg come up off floor.

DRILL #4: Quadra­tus lum­bo­rum/lat­eral body ball stretch

How to per­form: Ly­ing on an ap­pro­pri­ately sized sta­bil­ity ball, scis­sor your legs to gain sta­bil­ity and be­gin to lie com­pletely on the lat­eral as­pect of your body. Use your arm to rest on the floor and as­sist in bal­ance. Raise your arm when com­fort­able in the stretch and turn your hips up to tar­get the hip flex­ors.

Time: Hold this stretch for 10 to 15 sec­onds on both sides. Coach­ing cues: Con­form to the spher­i­cal shape of the ball with your body as much as pos­si­ble.

DRILL #5: Dou­ble kneel­ing foot stretch

How to per­form: Be­gin with kneel­ing on both legs. Plant the toes into the floor be­hind you and keep an up­right po­si­tion. Slowly, lean the torso back­wards so that a stretch can be felt in the bot­toms of the feet. The mo­bil­ity of the joints in the foot will de­ter­mine how far back you can go. Use cau­tion when lean­ing back. If this stretch is too ag­gres­sive, you can also per­form a rock­ing mo­tion (side to side) as you plant each foot and stretch the soles.

Time: Hold this stretch for 10 sec­onds on both sides. Re­peat 2x. If rock­ing, rock side to side for 8 to 10 reps 1x.

Coach­ing cues: The goal of this stretch is flex the big toe joint – which should be un­com­fort­able, but tol­er­a­ble af­ter a few reps. Stop this ex­er­cise if you feel any pain in lower back or knee area.

DRILL #6: Lat­eral band walk­ing

How to per­form: Place a re­sis­tance band or Thera Band la­tex ex­er­cise band around your feet. Each loop should come around the fore­foot and stay on se­curely. With a tight core, and knees slightly turned out (ex­ter­nally) keep the hips squared and take a small step out to the side. You should try to keep ten­sion in the trail­ing leg at all times and keep the steps con­trolled (not drop­ping the foot down). Time: Try 10 steps left and 10 steps right. If one side is stronger, keep the amount of the weaker side and build it up evenly.

Coach­ing cues: If you be­gin to lat­er­ally shift your torso left and right (like a teapot), ease off on the steps and re-set your core.

STEVE ROBERTS is a 41-yearold ac­cred­ited ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist (BSocSc, GDipEd) liv­ing in Toowoomba, Queens­land and the owner of Taurus Trainer, a health coach­ing ser­vice aimed at help­ing men in their 40s and 50s (or older) re­set their bi­o­log­i­cal clock. Steve wel­comes your ques­tions or com­ments via email or on any of his so­cial me­dia chan­nels avail­able via the web­site www.tau­rus­trainer.com.au or via email on sr­tau­rus­[email protected] 2. SMR with ten­nis ball on foot bot­tom

6. Lat­eral band walk­ing

3. Supine ham­string stretch with band

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