This is part II of our Blog on the anatomy of knee’, knee injuries and exercises to strengthen, stretch and self massage.
Before participating in any exercise program, it is best to consult with your doctor.
When you think about strengthening your knee you must think beyond simply machine strength training. In fact, none of the exercises we will show you here today involve machines. We will show you a balanced exercise program which will include strength training of all the muscles that play a part in keeping our knee strong (hips, quads, hamstrings, calves) as well as stretches to relax them and massage techniques to reduce trigger point or muscle tension. It is best to do all three of these techniques and not just stretching or strengthening as it will create muscular imbalances of which will lead to compensatory movement patterns.
First we will discuss stretches and self massage techniques. We will then split exercises from beginners stage exercises and moderate stage exercises. These will differ in difficulty and if you feel you need higher level exercises, send us a comment.
A good 20-25 minute cardio warm up would be great prior to or following your exercises. Stationary bikes are great for knee range of motion but make sure you are not too close or too far from the pedals.
Hamstring stretch- opposite knee bent to provide support for lumbar spine. Hamstring stretch performed using a stretch-out strap (can be substituted with belt or towel). Keep knee straight and gently lift leg up. Once you reach a nice stretch (not painful) hold 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each leg.
Quad/Hip flexor stretch- opposite knee bent to provide support for lumbar spine. Scoot to edge of bed or sofa and slowly allow leg to hang. If you want to feel the stretch more, simply move your heel backwards little by little until you reach desired stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each leg.
Calf stretch- point your back toes toward the heel of your front leg. Allow heel on back leg to slowly rest on floor and hold stretch for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on each leg.
SELF MASSAGE TECHNIQUES
Yes we are using a rolling pin. When you get creative with your tools, the opportunities are endless. Gently massage your thigh muscle (Quad). You can glide the pin along your inner thigh, mid thigh and external thigh. Do not roll over your knee. Only massage muscle, not bone.
Keep your back straight as marked with a yellow line in the picture. Softly massage your calf muscle with the rolling pin. You can glide the roll over the inner, mid and outer calf muscle.
MORE INTENSE SELF MASSAGE
Calf massage using a foam roll- place calf below knee line and using your arms, lift and roll towards your ankle and back to below the knee line. Make sure you maintain your shoulder in a safe place by not allowing your wrist to go behind your shoulder. My wrist is below my shoulder.
Hamstring massage using foam roll, place the foam roll below your gluteus muscle and use your arms to lift your body weight and roll towards the back of your knee stopping before the joint line. Again, make sure to maintain your shoulder in a good position as mentioned above.
Gluteus massage- bend your opposite knee and using your arm strength and your opposite leg to roll you forward and back massaging trigger points along your butt muscle.
IT Band Massage- I will not lie to you, this one is intense but equally important to do. Cross your opposite leg over the leg that will be rolled and using both arms and your bent leg to slowly glide you from the top side of your hip down to just above the top side of your knee. This band tends to get tight and will feel intense as you roll it.
Quad massage- Keeping your elbows beneath your shoulders, slowly glide your body’s weight from the top of your quad to just above your knee and repeat. Do not roll over your knee joint.
STRENGTH TRAINING- BEGINNERS
Hip Strengthening- Start off without the elastic band and if it is to easy you can always add a resistance band to increase the intensity of the exercise. Keep your hip in alignment with your shoulder. Keeping your feet together, slowly lift your knee up separating your legs and slowly return to starting position. Key word: Slowly
10 x 3 each side.
Hamstring Curl– Lying face down, slowly bend your knee bringing your heel towards your butt and slowly return to starting position. Key word: Slowly 10 x 3 each side and if it is too easy you can add an ankle weight for resistance.
Terminal Knee Extensions- use a foam roll or a pillow if you do not own a foam roll. Place the foam roll beneath your knees and keep your back straight against the wall. Slowly lift one leg at a time and squeeze your quad muscle at the top of the exercise. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 times. Switch legs and repeat these steps a total of 3 times. When you do this exercise, you may feel a stretch on your hamstring.
Seated Calf Raises- sitting with good posture, you may add resistance to this exercise by gently pushing down on your knee as you slowly raise your heel up and slowly return it to the starting position. Key word: Slowly. Repeat 10 x 3
MODERATE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
Standing Hip Strengthening- Use a resistance band if you want the exercise more challenging and remove it to make it easier. Place the band above your knees and while maintaining good posture and body alignment side step 5 times to the right and 5 times to the left. Repeat 3-5 times. Make sure the top half of your body does not sway side to side as you step. The only part that should be moving is your lower half. Do not drag your feet and use slow and controlled movements, not allowing the resistance band to pull your legs.
Quad Strengthening- Leaning against an exercise ball, have your feet out in front of you. Slowly squat down as you lean into the ball and avoid having your knees pass your toes. We have added a yellow line for you to see how to maintain your knees in a safe position as you squat. When you slowly stand to starting position, do not extend your knees all the way, keep them slightly bent. Repeat 10 x 3
Standing Heel Raises- using a stepper or a stair, place only your toes on the step allowing your heels to hang off the edge. You may use a wall for balance if you need. Slowly raise onto your toes and slowly return to starting position. If you want to make this exercise more challenging simply hold the exercise at the top of the heel raise for 5 seconds before slowly returning. Repeat 10 x 3
Bridge with a Hamstring Curl- This exercise will work your hamstrings as well as your calves, glutes and core. Lie down on your back placing the ball beneath your feet. Slowly raise your butt off the floor and hold the position as you press into the ball with your feet. Slowly begin to curl the ball towards your butt but make sure you maintain proper alignment of your back by tightening your core. Slowly return the ball and lower your glutes back down to the floor. Repeat 10 x 3 make sure you are properly breathing through this exercise as it is more challenging.
There ya have it! A solid start to a great exercise program to strengthen your knees. If you want to get creative with it, set up a mini circuit for yourself using the exercise mentioned above. This will keep you moving from exercise to exercise and when you are finished with 1 round you can repeat it 2-3 more times.
We hope you enjoy this wonderful exercise program and look forward to any comments you have to give.
Until next time!