4 Exercises To Boost Knee Strength
Along with back pain, knee pain is a pretty common complaint I hear as a coach. The discomfort raises a viscous cycle. If your knee hurts you struggle and eventually stop working out and being active. Lack of activity leads to further pain and lack of range.
As females, we’re actually more prone to knee pain than males. This is mainly due to our hip structure and overall strength. Our knees tend to collapse or cave inward during simple movements like squats, jumping or even on the stairs.
The repetition of this collapse is one of the reasons that our knees hurt. Other causes can be; previous injury, poor mobility and muscle inactivity.
Whatever the cause, in order to get through day to day activities you need strong knees.
Unfortunately, most people go about this the wrong way and aim to strengthen the knee only through one range of motion: extension. Performing hundreds of leg extensions isn’t the best way to improve strength and function.
What you want to do instead is target the muscles surrounding the knee, the ones that hold it in place as well as ensure your basic movement mechanics are technically sound. Meaning: don’t let your knees cave in when you squat!
So how do you go about this? Below are four exercises that help improve strength and range in the knee.
Exercise #1 Banded Glute Bridges
You’ve probably heard me chat about this exercise before. Not that I think it solves life problems or anything.. well actually, I do! Banded glute bridges can be beneficial for a lot of issues from back pain to improving glutes to.. you guessed it, improving your knee strength!
Your glutes are one of the muscles that help keep your knees on the right track when you squat. They are normally underactive due to sitting and lack of contraction so they tend to become weak and not do their job.
By performing banded glute bridges you’ll learn how to activate your external rotators which will help reduce your knees caving inwards.
Exercise #2 Clamshells
Remember those old school workout videos of ladies in sweat bands laying on their sides doing clams and abductions? Well it turns out they had something going for them! Clamshells are an amazing way to strengthen the glutes and again improve knee strength.
Our hips play a crucial role in the way we walk, squat and run so it only makes sense to have strong ones. Clamshells help boost the function of the hips and glutes creating more stability. This stability better provides you the ability to keep your knee in place during movement.
Exercise #3 Stability Ball Squeezes
This exercise targets the inner thighs. While most people make the mistake of thinking that the adductors are pulling the knee in allowing it to cave (which is partially true) the balance between push and pull is underestimated.
When the adductors are tight or dysfunctional they will almost always win in a battle with the hips and thus cause instability through the pelvis and knees. Learning to both contract and relax is key to the adductors functioning optimally.
The other part of training inner thighs is to stretch the adductors. Yup, you read that right. Your inner thighs do like to stay tight and contracted. If you’re going to keep an even balance between push and pull (hips versus inner thigh) you’ll need to spend some time stretching the inner thighs. I personally like using the frog stretch or a lateral hip rocker.
Exercise #4 Single Leg Towel Slides
It’s a very small movement and hits the hamstrings.
The hamstrings are another piece of the puzzle when thinking of knee stability. Your body must function as a whole to prevent knee pain and that’s where hamstrings come in. Hamstrings normally assist the glutes, however when neither is strong enough to do the task their often over loaded.
Strengthening and learning how to activate the hamstrings helps keep the knee in proper alignment. Once you can do single leg towel slides either from a chair or lying prone on the floor, try moving up to double leg ones with the hips raised.
Most people think that in order to boost knee strength we need to focus on quadriceps engagement. However our quads are only one piece of the puzzle. In order to truly help your knees you need to look at the whole structure that keeps them and your pelvis stable.
To learn how to perform these exercises check out the video below.
Don’t forget to pin these knee tips!
If you’re looking to boost your workout performance, improve day to day function and prevent or alleviate knee pain these exercises are for you. Don’t underestimate the necessity to train your body to function as a whole instead of trying to hit only one muscle. Implement these exercises and boost your ability to do what you love.