PREPARE FOR IMPROVED PERFORMANCE
KNEE-STRENGTHENING EXERCISES TO SAVE YOUR JOINTS AND AVOID INJURIES
BY HIRANMAYII AWLI MOHANAN
The knee is probably one of the most complex joints in the body and works hard to power you through everyday movements. When it comes to strengthening your body, major muscle groups—hamstrings, quads, chest and core, might come to mind first. But if you’re not regularly incorporating moves into your exercise routine that focus on strengthening your knees, you’re missing out on both comfort and gains. Having healthy knees allows you to function better in daily life, as well as perform better in sports and fitness activities. Also, strong knees keep your form ideal when exercising, which is key in reducing the risk of injuries.
An important point to remember is the knee is a joint, not a muscle, which means you can’t technically strengthen it, but, you can strengthen its surrounding muscles, which helps stabilise the joints. These muscles include the quadriceps, hamstrings and adductors (which are the muscles in your inner thighs). Now, you’re probably wondering, “how do you determine if your knees are weak”? For starters, if you’re going into a lunge, squat or any exercise that requires your knee to bend and you feel unstable, that’s a major sign. Another test is mid-walk or run — if your gait while running or walking feels wobbly, that’s also a sign the muscles surrounding your knee joint could use some strengthening.
Below, we have rounded up effective exercises for strengthening the knee. You can perform the moves below in a sequence for a knee-strengthening workout, or work the exercises into your typical strength routine more regularly.
1. Half Turkish Get-Up
Strengthening the knee means strengthening the three main muscles which surround its joint: hamstrings, quads and adductors. With this compound move, you’re covered for all three.
Execution: Lie on back with right leg and arm straight on the floor at a 45-degree angle from body, left leg bent so foot is flat on the floor and left arm extended up toward ceiling (elbow locked out) holding a kettlebell. With eyes on kettlebell, press into right arm and sit up, coming onto right forearm. Press through right palm and left foot to lift hips into air, keeping right leg straight. Slowly reverse the movement to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Complete for 3 sets of 10 reps.
2. Isometric Squat
This exercise is a variation of the traditional squat that builds endurance in the leg muscles. This variation also removed the pressure from the knee joint itself.
Execution: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped in front of your chest, gaze neutral. Push hips back as you bend knees. Stop when thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, keeping tension throughout the glutes and hamstrings. Release. Rest for 30 seconds in standing position, then repeat 2 more times.
3. Dumbbell Good Mornings
While good mornings are a rockstar move for strengthening your hamstrings, your back and core are also activated during the exercise, which is key to keeping your spine stabilised for better balance. This move also puts minimal pressure on the knees.
Execution: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart while holding a pair of dumbbells on top of shoulders, palms facing inward. This is starting position. Keeping knees slightly bent and torso straight, slowly hinge from the hips until chest is parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly return to starting position. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
4. Alternating Lunges with Bicep Curl
This stellar compound movement not only targets the trifecta muscles surrounding the knee but also incorporates upper-body movement to increase coordination. Focus on that mind-muscle connection while executing this exercise for strength and agility.
Execution: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with right foot as left leg sinks into half-squat. Right knee should be just over right foot. At bottom of movement, bend elbows to curl dumbbells to shoulder-height. Pause, then lower dumbbells back to your thighs. Press through right foot to step back into starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat on other leg. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
5. Side Leg Lifts
What side leg lifts do is target and build strength in the glutes, hip abductors and thighs. This would result in stabilised lower body and decreases your risk to injury.
Execution: Lie on right side, feet flexed and stacked on top of each other. Place left hand on ground in front of chest to stabilise the body. Keep the body in a straight line, tailbone tucked. With left foot flexed and leg straight, lift leg toward the ceiling. Lift leg upwards as far as is comfortable, then lower. Repeat on opposite leg. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
6. Isometric Quad Raise
This low impact, less movement exercise is a good one for strengthening the muscles around the knee. It targets the quads, which run from your knee up the top of your leg. Tight, overworked, weak quads are a common source of knee pain.
Execution: Grab a small, rolled-up towel or similar object and place under right quad just above knee. Lie down on back with legs straight, feet neutral and hands at sides. Lift right foot up as you squeeze right quad, using towel or object for support. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite leg. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.