strengthen knees

Knee pain and discomfort is something that can affect men and women of all ages. If you aren’t mindful, it is easy to temporarily or permanently damage your knees. Of course, aging is inevitable; it is imperative that you stay aware of how your activities are affecting your knees. Whether your knees are in great shape or have taken a beating over the years, these stretches and exercises will help you strengthen your knees and prevent future damage.

Wall Squats

Wall Squats

If you are near a wall, you’re ready to rock at this exercise. Stand with your back against the wall and slowly bend at your knees as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. Always check that your knees are never over your toes and are in line with your hips. Hold this seated position for 10-15 seconds and gently slide up the wall to a straight and standing position. Even though this exercise places some stress on the knees, it helps build strength for protecting the joints and muscles around your knees. Wall sits also strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and lower legs. Any pain felt during this exercise should be felt in your muscles and not in your knees.

Marching in Place

Marching in place might seem silly, but it is a great way to relieve pain in the knee, strengthen the muscles around the knee, and work in some very light and low impact cardio.  Start by standing in place and begin lifting one leg up as if you were marching forward, but you will stay in one place. This exercise strengthens your quad muscles without putting weight on your knees. This is a nice exercise to do if you have been sitting for a long time. Get your blood moving and start marching!

Step Up

Step Up

Grab a chair or a stool and place it in front of you. Make sure that you are using a reasonable sized chair or stool for your height. You want the chair or stool to be high enough to be effective but not so high that you risk losing your balance and injuring yourself. Step up on to the chair or stool with your left leg and lift up. On the way down, lightly tap your right foot to the floor. Repeat this motion on each leg for 20-30 reps. this exercise works all of your leg muscles and is easy on the knees. You can also buy an exercise step, which is a piece of equipment that is easy to stack to increase the level of difficulty if and when you are ready.

Side-Lying Leg Lifts

Side Leg Lift

Even though this exercise starts in the same position as you might normally nap in, it is hardly a time for rest. Lie down on your side either on your floor or on your exercise or yoga mat. Stack your legs on top of each other and then begin by lifting one leg up slowly into the air and bringing it back down. Your leg should lift up to a 45-degree angle. Remember that this is a controlled motion; so avoid flinging your leg into the air with zero caution. You can support your head by placing your arm underneath as an acting pillow. Even though this exercise does not directly strengthen the knee, it does build strength in the muscles of your outer thighs, which makes for better stability and balance. Side-lying leg lifts are also great for toning and strengthening your hip flexors.

Bridges

Bridges Related: Why You Should Be Stretching Every Day

A strong and well-toned bottom is not just essential for aesthetic reasons, but also to improve the health and vitality of your knees. Strong glutes prevent your knees from collapsing inwards causing pain, injury, or discomfort. If you have just finished the side-lying leg lifts you’re already exactly where you need to be—on the floor. Lie on your back and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Slowly lift your body off the floor, feet still planted, and hold for 2-4 seconds. Repeat this motion for 2 sets of 10 reps. Be mindful of your back arching and your shoulders and knees coming out of alignment. This is a great exercise to do during commercial breaks if you are just lounging around.

Calf Stretch

Calf Stretch

As you can tell by now strengthening your knees is shifting the focus strictly from your knees to your entire lower body. Stretching your calves is easy to do and can be done at home or in the office. Start by holding on to a chair or other surface and step back with one leg. Bend your left or right leg and with your other leg step backward and plant the foot on the ground. Be sure that your knees are not going over your toes and that your bent leg is forming a 90-degree angle.  You will immediately feel the stretch in your calf muscle. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on your opposite leg. Do not push yourself if you feel any burning sensation while stretching. It should feel good, not painful. The benefits of calf stretches are that releasing tight calves will loosen up the muscle. Pain or tightness in the calf muscle can transfer to your knees.

Partial Squats

Squats

Squats can be intimidating especially if you already suffer from knee pain or discomfort. A full squat can even be difficult for anyone, which is why you will love the partial squat. You can use a chair or imagine an invisible chair is behind you so that you can successfully complete this exercise. Squats train the leg muscles and as you might know, strong legs make for healthy and happy knees. Stand with legs hip-width apart and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Gently bend at the knees while keeping your back straight and begin to lower yourself as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Your knees should never go over your toes and they should stay in line with your legs and hips. Hold this position for 2-3 seconds and then raise your body up to a straight standing position. Do this 10-12 times for best results.

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring StretchYour hamstrings are easily susceptible to tightness and like tight calf muscles, this can transfer to pain or discomfort in your knees. Stretching also increases flexibility and range of motion; both of which are necessary for happy and healthy, pain-free joints and knees. Stand with your legs straight and step one foot forward with your toes up to the air. Bend your other leg as if you were going to sit back into a chair. Your upper body will come forward at the hip and you will feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds while breathing deeply and be sure to watch for your bent knee so that it does not go over your toes. Always remember that when stretching it should feel good, not painful.

Straight Leg Lift

straight leg lift Related: 9 Great Exercises For Sciatica And Lower Back Pain

Straightforward and low impact, straight leg lifts are excellent for building strength in the muscles that surround and support the knee. The best part of this exercise is that you get to lie down. Lay flat on your back with legs straight out in front of you. Next, bend one leg while the other leg remains straight and slowly lifts off the ground. Depending on your personal preference the height at which your leg will be lifted can vary. Hold the lifted leg in the air for 3-5 seconds and gently bring it down and complete 2 sets of 10 for each leg. Keep your tummy tight and avoid arching your back, as this will cause injury and pain. Your lower back should be touching the floor at all times. This is also great for toning your core, which will help improve overall balance and posture.

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