Written by Jim Kessler – Coach at Liven Up Fitness
Do you occasionally experience knee pain after a busy day of physical activity?
Sometimes you can experience pain or discomfort in normal healthy knees. However, the knee may not be the problem. It can be an indication that something above or below the knee needs some attention. Your hips, glutes, quadriceps, and calf muscles all interact with the knee in some fashion. If these muscles are tight, weak, or not functioning properly, they could be the source of your pain. Below are some simple exercises and stretches for each of these areas.
Hips and Glutes
Strong hips and glutes help prevent your knee from caving in and getting out of alignment while kneeling and squatting. Many of us have weak glutes because we sit for prolonged periods of time and don’t activate them properly. Here are two simple, but effective, movements to help strengthen and stretch our hips and glutes:
Lateral Band Walks
Place a resistance band around your thighs right above the knees. Lower your hips slightly and bend your knees to drop into a shallow squat. Keeping your feet apart so there is always tension on the band, take 20 steps to the left. Then sidestep back to the right. Try to stay in the shallow squat throughout. Take a short break and repeat for 3 sets.
Supine Figure 4 Stretch
Begin by laying with your back flat on the floor. Bend you left knee, and cross your right leg so your ankle is on your left thigh. With both hands, grab the hamstrings of your left leg and pull toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
The quads are the muscles that run along the front and side of the leg and attach to the knee. These help keep the knee straight and absorb shock from running and other weight-bearing activities. A weakness here will lead to an unstable knee and increased pressure on the knee joint.
Start by standing tall in front of a chair or bench. Feet will be hip width apart and toes pointed slightly out. As you begin to lower yourself, ensure your hips are moving backwards, knees are tracking over your middle toes, and you maintain a tall posture. Knees can come forward but ensure they do not come out over your toes. This can cause unnecessary strain on the knees. When standing, maintain a tall posture, drive through your heels, and ensure your knees do not cave in. As you get comfortable with this exercise, you can adjust the intensity by choosing a lower chair to squat to, or working one leg at a time.
Standing Quad Stretch
Standing tall, bend one knee and pull your foot up behind you with your hand. Try to keep your knees together and push your hips forward. This can be done as a static stretch by holding it for 30 seconds, or it can be performed more dynamically by stretching and holding for 1 second and alternating between your left and right leg for a set of 10.
While the glutes and quads are keeping your knees in line, the calves are acting as their bottom-supporter. Weakness, or tightness in the calf muscles takes away this shock absorber, letting the knee take the brunt impact of any type of weight-bearing exercise.
Stand on a step with your heels extended out over the edge. Start on your tiptoes, with knees straight, slowly lower yourself until your heel drops below the step. Take one second to raise yourself back to your tiptoes, and five seconds to lower yourself. Do 10-15 reps, then repeat with your knees bent. Do 3 sets like this. If you want to challenge yourself a little more, perform this on one leg at a time.
You can use a foam roller or a lacrosse ball. Sit on the ground and put the ball or roller under your calf. Apply a little pressure by placing the other leg on top. Start pumping your foot, pointing your toes away from you, then back towards your face. Slowly work your way up and down the whole length of your calf. Repeat on the other leg.
We want to keep our knees healthy and functioning properly for a lifetime. You don’t have to wait until your knees start complaining to do these exercises and stretches – take a few minutes and add them to your regular routine as a great way to keep those knees happy!
Interested in learning more? Scheduled an appointment by calling 610.625.4484 or by visiting them onsite at 57 S. Commerce Way, Suite 140 Bethlehem, PA 18017!