Strengthen your knees
Here are six drills to construct indestructible knees
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