Knee Exercises For Runners
These knee-strengthening exercises will help with your running, strengthen the muscles around the knee and prevent knee pain.
The exercises strengthen all the muscles supporting the knee and stretch out the iliotibial band, known as the ITB, which runs down the outside of the thigh.
They can be done as part of your warm-up before a run or as a cool-down routine after a run, outside or indoors, or whenever is most convenient.
Typically, you should start to see some benefits after 2 weeks of doing these knee exercises every day.
You should not feel any pain when doing these exercises. If you do, stop immediately and seek medical advice. These exercises are not suitable for people with an existing knee injury.
Cartilage & Joint Health
Improving the health of cartilage can often be quite challenging, as the type of cartilage within the knee has a horrible blood supply, making it hard for damaged or unhealthy cartilage cells to get the oxygen, nutrients and other substances they require for healing.
As a result, youll likely have to opt for leg exercises that keep your knees moving but without creating any knee pain in the process. Read onwards as to how to go about doing this.
Osteoarthritis of the knee
Osteoarthritis of the knee results from a breakdown of the cartilage on the end of either the femur or the tibia. It becomes more common as we age and most often presents as pain right on the joint line of the knee. Osteoarthritis on the inside knee portion is usually the first area where it rears its ugly head.
X-rays are the go-to for ruling in arthritic changes within this joint.
As mentioned earlier, if you have an arthritic knee, you have to find ways to keep the joint moving without flaring the pain. This helps decrease pain and nourish the joint, which provides it with the nutrients and substances that the cartilage receives via the synovial fluid within the joint. Thankfully, a rather promising training intervention has become more prominent over the last decade for those with arthritic knees who are dealing with this challenge. Check out the solution below to learn more!
The solution for arthritic knee pain
How To Exercise If Your Knees Hurt
Knees are complex joints in the body and only the doctor can judge if you are well and ready for training. If so, you should begin to strengthen the knees for better endurance and flexibility. If you feel pain, listen to your body and slow down your workout. We also recommend changing your cardio workouts.
If your knees hurt, replace the exercises and sports that aggravate the knee joints with exercises that do not exert too much pressure on your knees. In practice, this means replacing zumba, aerobics, jumping and running for a cycling, swimming or fast walking. We will also take a look at a strength exercises that you can try if your knees hurt. But first, we are going to tell you some tips that you should remember before exercising.
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Medial Collateral Ligament Injury
The medial collateral ligament runs along the outside of your inner knee to stabilize the joint. If the ligament overstretches, you may have an MCL sprain.
The MCL can also tear partially or fully. An MCL injury most commonly occurs after force is applied to the outer knee, such as in contact sports.
Symptoms of an MCL injury include:
Hamstring Curls On A Weight Bench
Muscles involved: Hamstrings and gluteal muscles.
This exercise is a variation of the standing hamstring curl. A person can try this version if they have access to a weight bench that is purpose-built for this exercise. It may be more challenging than the standing hamstring curl, depending on how much weight a person uses.
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Mistake : Inappropriate Training Volume
Even if you dont use excessive or inappropriate amounts of weight/resistance when performing your leg extensions, its still entirely possible to overload what your knees can tolerate. This can occur if youre performing too much training volume.
Training volume refers to how much work is performed during a workout or for a specific exercise. There is actually a way to calculate it:
Training volume = poundage lifted x sets performed x repetitions performed
This means that tendon overload can occur when using ideal amounts of resistance but excessive amounts of sets and/or repetitions.
And while you might experience some knee discomfort if doing too many sets or reps for an individual workout, youre more than likely going to experience knee pain or discomfort if you repeatedly make this mistake workout after workout.
The solution:Use the concept of minimal effective dose so that you adopt the mindset of training to stimulate, not annihilate. Remember, you do not grow or become stronger in the gym you grow and become stronger with rest and recovery. You simply use your training sessions to stimulate your tissues to initiate the process.
Minimal effective dose
Many individuals make the mistake of thinking, if some is good, then more is better. This can often get an individual in trouble when it comes to experiencing knee pain on the knee extension machine they simply do too much.
Best And Worst Leg Exercises For Bad Knees
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Folks with bad knees cant just do any leg exercise.
Doing the wrong leg exercises will put extra strain on the knees and increase knee pain.A Complete List Of Bodyweight Leg Exercises , FocusFitness
The exercises Im about to share with you arent for treating knee pain theyre low-impact exercises which wont make your knee problem worse. That said, these exercises are known to strengthen the knees and even reduce pain.
Note that all knee problems are not the same some are more severe than others. So listen to your body and stick to exercises youre comfortable with. The worst thing you can do is to train through pain. Stop whenever you feel unusual sharp pain.
In this article, I will share exercises that can strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calf muscles.
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Best Exercises For Knee Pain
A comprehensive exercise program should combine cardiovascular endurance plus flexibility and strength exercises, Orlandi says. There are many good exercises to strengthen the knee joints and surrounding leg, hip and buttocks muscles, she says. Aim for at least two 20-minute sessions a week. Orlandi suggests trying the following.
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Move : Bridge With Ball
“Adding the ball to the glute bridges recruits your hip adductors and your hip extensors , mainly your gluteal muscles,” she says. Stabilizing and strengthening these areas helps to protect your knees.
- Avoid hyperextending your spine in the bridge position. Instead, only lift your glutes until your low back is flat, stopping before it arches.
- Skip the bridge motion and do ball squeezes isometrically instead.
- You can also use a pillow if you don’t have a ball.
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Move : Seated Heel Slide
The focus here is the hamstring muscles. “Strengthening the posterior muscles of the lower extremities helps to balance out the anterior quad muscles, which can better help protect the knee from injury, such as ACL tears,” Prestipino says.
The sliding movement also helps to increase circulation in the knee, she adds, which might help with inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
- Donât sit too far back in the chair, as it will limit how far you can slide your foot against the floor.
- Avoid sliding your foot too far backward, as this can put increased tension on the knee.
- Reduce the range of motion if the full range aggravates your knee.
- You can also do this lying on your back instead if that feels more comfortable for you.
How Exercise Helps Inner Knee Pain
Exercise should be a normal part of your healthy lifestyle. It can boost strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, increased blood flow and endurance. Pain on the inside of the knee is often caused by existing knee injuries such as bursitis, knee osteoarthritis, runners knee, MCL tear, etc. The biggest factor in gaining these benefits is making sure that you are choosing the right exercises to avoid aggravation while still maximizing your knee health.
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Exercise 3 Barbell Lunges
2-3 sets of 15 reps
The lunge is another great leg-development exercise that can be done after a knee injury, and it is my personal favorite. After leg extensions, step-ups, and single-leg squats, you’d think you’d be done. Oh please! We are trying to win a competition! We need some tears, and you might have been crying at the single-leg squat so this exercise will put an exclamation point on the workout!
I prefer using the barbell on these, but using dumbbells is fine also. Perform this exercise by lifting one knee high in the air and stepping out as far as you can to insure a 90-degree angle on descent. Some people prefer to use the quicker, shorter version by taking smaller steps.
Just as with the single-leg barbell squat, I recommend stepping out as far as you’re able to. Your legs may be feeling wobbly by this point, so you only need to do 2 sets.
Blood Flow Restriction Training
Ive been saving this one for last, as blood flow restriction training is arguably one of the most effective ways to increase quadriceps size and strength while training at light loads.
If you dont know what blood flow restriction training or therapy is, you can read any of the following articles that Ive written, which will bring you up to speed on all you need to know regarding what BFR training is, how its done and what science has been finding with its effects.
Unlike traditional strength training, which requires an individual to lift loads at approximately 60-70% of their maximal abilities to increase muscle mass and strength, BFR training can elicit the same effects in the legs using loads of only 20-30%.913
Having done my graduate thesis on this topic, Ive researched it extensively over the years while using it on numerous patients in the clinic and clients within the gym. Ive had great success with it and, when appropriate, opt for using it in various aspects of lower extremity rehabilitation.
Like any other training intervention, its not appropriate for everyone. Still, literature shows that its quite safe in otherwise healthy populations, both young and old. Its relatively simple to perform and has been shown to be effective for rehabilitative purposes and general strength training purposes.
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Why Is Exercise To Strengthen Your Knees Important
Strength and flexibility go hand-in-hand: a fluid muscle is a happy muscle. Knee exercises and stretches that promote both power and flexibility are of the greatest benefit, because they can help you prevent injury.
Knee strengthening exercises develop the muscles around the knee, but they can also cause the muscles to get tight, if not stretched properly. A tight muscle will constrict the knee joint and be more prone to injury. Stretching after knee strengthening exercise will alleviate muscle soreness and keep the muscles long and elastic.
What Else Can Help With Knee Pain
Finding relief from knee pain depends on the cause or issue thats making it difficult for you to go about your daily activities. Carrying excess weight puts extra stress on your knees, which may lead to osteoarthritis.
In this case, the most effective treatment, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is weight loss. Your doctor may recommend a combination of diet and exercise to help you lose weight and strengthen the muscles in your lower body, especially around your knees.
A 2013 study found that adults with overweight and knee osteoarthritis experienced a reduction in weight and knee pain after 18 months of a diet and exercise program.
But if overuse is the culprit, your doctor will likely suggest RICE which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation and physical therapy. A physical therapist can work with you to develop a program that includes range of motion exercises, stretches, and muscle strengthening movements.
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Heel And Calf Stretch
This stretch targets the muscles in your lower leg, specifically your calf muscles.
To do this stretch:
Limiting The Range Of Motion
Though perhaps not ideal, if youre absolutely dead-set on performing leg extensions at all costs, you can opt to perform the exercise with a limited range of motion. Depending on your individual condition, you might be able to perform a portion of the movement in a pain-free range.
Some evidence shows that performing leg extensions up to 45 degrees of extension can reduce load underneath the kneecap, which could be a potential variation you could opt for until you get your knees back to optimal health.8
While I would personally only opt for this strategy as a last resort , you may find that its a solid strategy for you and one that your knees can tolerate. And its certainly better than nothing if you simply cant live without performing leg extensions.
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Very Effective Extension Variations
Now that weve talked about why pain is commonly incurred with seated leg extensions, we had better talk about how it can often be avoided while still delivering appropriate stimulation to the muscles during the movement.
Many lifters and individuals give up on performing leg extensions altogether when they experience knee pain at higher loads or intensities of this exercise. They erroneously think that if they cant go heavy , theres no other way to perform this exercise while experiencing strength or hypertrophy gains.
But thankfully, thats not always true if we can make the muscles work just as hard while using less weight , we just might be able to still use this machine for strengthening the quads while sparing the tissues around the knees themselves.
Give the following variations a try and see if they make a difference for you!
Exercises To Avoid With Knee Pain
To maximize your knee recovery potential, there are certain moves that you will want to avoid to prevent unnecessary aggravation initially. With time and healing, you will be able to carefully get back to all of your favorite activities. Exercises to consider avoiding include:
- High impact exercise such as running, jumping, and other plyometrics
- Sports that require sudden changes in direction or pivoting- such as basketball, volleyball, and football
- Deep squats or lunges
- Any lower leg move that makes the knee feel unstable- particularly if you notice it collapsing inward, as this can strain the patella , meniscus, and medial collateral ligament
- Repetitive leg movements that can lead to overuse
- Any exercise that causes knee pain
If youre having trouble tolerating exercise, focus on other home treatment options first. You may also benefit from a round of physical therapy to efficiently address your knee deficits and get the best possible relief. A physical therapist can recommend a personalized home program that boosts your recovery and confidence.
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How A Sprained Knee Is Diagnosed
The doctor will test the ligaments by stressing the individual ligaments to see if theres any instability or if the joint is stable.
If you injure your knee, see a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially important if you cant stand up, feel as though your knee will collapse, or your leg looks swollen or bulgy.
The doctor will examine your knee, look for swelling and bruising, and ask you to move it around to determine your mobility. Theyll compare it to your uninjured knee.
Theyll also want to know what you were doing when the injury happened, whether you heard a pop, and how long it took to become painful.
You may also be given imaging tests. An X-ray will show if theres a broken bone, but other imaging methods allow the physician to see different, non-bony structures inside your knee. This includes the ligaments and other tissues that support it.
Knee sprains are rated by severity. An overstretched ligament is grade 1. A partially torn ligament is grade 2. A ligament thats severely torn or separated is considered grade 3.
The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the severity of your injury and what part of your knee was damaged.