Last week I was working with a friend on knee strengthening exercises for better stabilization. This is a point of discussion that faces everyone and no matter what sport or activities you are doing, strong knees are critical to avoiding injury and functioning at your best.
Here are a few exercises to get you started if you are not already doing them.
Quadriceps– especially the Vastus Medialis, a small quad muscle on the lowest part of the quad just above the knee towards the inner thigh. Failure to strengthen this muscle can cause problems with your patella (knee cap) tracking to the side, causing pain and instability. Ball squats on the wall squeezing a ball between the knees will strengthen the quads and target the Vastus Medialis. I also like balancing on one leg with a slight knee bend in the supporting leg. Perform 10-15 knee bends on each leg.
Adductor strength – these are your inner thigh muscles. The above exercise will also strength the adductor muscles by squeezing the ball. If you are looking for another exercise try lying and doing leg lifts. Bent the top leg behind the extended leg with your foot on the floor and lift the bottom leg up and down until the muscle is completely fatigued. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring strength – Most people’s hamstrings are weaker than their quads and are a major reason for injury. Performing a hamstring curl on the ball you will not only be strengthening the hamstrings but also improving balance and proprioception which helps to have better awareness of body positioning. Lie on a mat with your feet positioned on top of the ball. Push your palms into the mat next to your hips and lift hips up into a bridge position. From here, roll the ball back and forth by bending your knees and keeping hips off the floor. Work up to 10-15 reps each set.
Leg Abductors and IT Band -(Outer thighs)- Use a resistance band wrapped around your legs just above your ankles. Standing tall, take a step sideways and follow through with the opposite side. Continue stepping side to side for 15-20 reps depending on the resistance of your band. You should feel your muscles working on the outsides of your legs.
Try these exercises in your program if you aren’t already and begin feeling more confident in your abilities to do other activities. Don’t forget to stretch afterwards and use a foam roller as a tool for better joint mobility too.