Get a little bit older or put on some extra pounds and you’ll realize that knee problems can become a daily struggle. Simple, everyday movements like walking or bending can become difficult and even painful for those with weak knees. Strong knees, on the other hand, while often overlooked, make a big difference in what activities you can perform.
You can prevent most knee problems through weight loss, weight maintenance, and by strengthening your knee joints with the exercises listed below. (And those who suffer from weak or painful knees shouldn’t shy away from these exercises.)
You may not believe it, but under the direction of your doctor, physical therapist, or our director, Irene Diamond, appropriate exercises can be an effective way to treat knee injury.
When the muscles surrounding the knee are strengthened through exercise, pressure and pain on the knee are relieved. Also, your knees don’t have to work as hard when you have strong muscles to do the work.
For optimal function of the knees, you need strong hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, plus believe it or not, proper head alignment.
Now…to the exercises that will strengthen your knees.
Build the muscles around your knee joint with squats. This simple exercise can be done anytime, anywhere, with or without weights. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Place your arms straight in front of you, parallel to the floor and palms facedown. Keep your back straight and begin to bend your knees lowering down to sit in a chair. The whole time, your knees should remain above your feet so you can still see your toes. Raise back up to standing. Repeat.
(Important: do not let knees roll in towards each other, or push forward past your toes. Sit back and intentionally maintain leg alignment.)
The walking lunge: Holding 3-5 pound free weights will increase its intensity. Take a step forward with your left leg and lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the ground. Your left knee and left hip should make a 90-degree angle. Stand back up straight and then take a step with your right leg and lower your body toward the ground. Keep walking forward, lunging as you go.
This exercise can be done sitting in a chair or by using the leg extension machine at the gym. It strengthens your quadriceps muscles, the large muscle on the front of your thigh. Sit in a chair, thigh should be completely supported. Keep one foot on the floor and extend the other leg until your leg is straight in front of you, parallel to the floor. Lower it back down and then lift the other leg.
To use the leg extension machine, adjust the settings to fit your body size and add resistance if desired. Sitting on the machine, lift one leg or both until they’re straight out in front of you. Hold this position for a few seconds then bend your legs back to the starting position. Repeat.
Another knee-strengthening exercise that can be done at home or with a machine at the gym is the leg curl. It’s a great exercise to work your hamstring — the muscle on the back of your thigh. To do this exercise at home, stand and hold onto the back of a chair. Bend your knee to lift your left heel up toward your bottom then lower it back to the floor. Then repeat on your right heel. Repeat working up to 15 reps of each side. You can also do this movement while lying on your stomach. Bend one knee at a time, or both at the same time. If you need more resistance, you can use an exercise band and wrap it around either your foot or ankle.
(We stock bands, balls, and all sorts of fun stuff at Diamond Wellness Center if you need any home equipment.)
To use the leg curl machine at the gym, lie face down and place your knees in the pivot point of the machine. Adjust the ankle pad to rest above your ankles. Add resistance if desired. Perform double or single leg curls by curling your leg(s) toward your bottom and then straightening.
Still No Relief?
Exercise and home remedies may not be enough to relieve you knee pain. It may be time for surgery. If you have not yet seen an orthopedist, please do, and if you do need surgery, thanks to new innovations, you can be home in a matter of days and start to experience life again like you haven’t in years!
Our director, Irene Diamond is available to help you determine your next step and to design a sound exercise program that can be done either at your home, gym, or at our center with her guidance.
Just give a call to set up your no-cost Wellness Consultation.