Anyone who has ever suffered a moderate to severe knee injury can tell you just how disruptive and long-term this type of damage can be; not to mention how surprisingly vulnerable this particular joint is.
As the knee is crucial to your overall stability, as well as the ability to bend and walk, it is essential to incorporate activities that improve flexibility and strength, so as to prevent injury.
Anatomy Of The Knee
Comprised of bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, the knee is the largest single joint in the human body; and it is one of the easiest to injure. The femur (thigh bone), tibia (shinbone), and patella (kneecap) form the knee joint, are connected by ligaments that provide stability for the knee, covered in cartilage to aid bending and straightening of the knee, and connected to muscles by tendons.
Common knee injuries include ligament tears, dislocations, sprains, and fractures; can occur in a number of ways such as car accidents, sporting injuries, and or twisting and falling. Depending on the level of severity, most knee injuries can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and specific exercises or physical therapy. But some knee damages may require orthopedic surgery to correct.
7 Seven Simple Exercises To Prevent Knee Injuries
The best way to avoid a knee injury is to incorporate both flexibility and strength training into your fitness regimen. Additionally, depending on any known health issues and your level of fitness, it is imperative that the correct exercises are selected, as well as technique and proper equipment. If you have suffered any recent injuries or health problems, be sure to consult your doctor before attempting any exercises.
While stretching is often thought of as something you do after your workout, it is actually a core component throughout any fitness routine, and is critical in knee injury prevention. The proper way to incorporate flexibility exercises is to first warm up by walking or bicycling until you start to sweat, then perform dynamic exercises to replicate the exercise and prepare the body for the task at hand. Then stretch the same muscles three more times after the entire workout session.
Standing Hamstring Stretch: Place the heel of your leg on an object approximately 15 inches high, and keep your leg straight. Gently lean forward until you feel a mild stretch in the back of the thigh. Be sure not to arch your back and bend at hips. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three times.
Quadriceps Stretch: Facing a wall, stand an arm’s length away with one hand on the wall for support. With the free hand, grab your ankle and pull your heel toward your buttocks. Keep knees together, and hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three times.
For the strengthening portion of the same muscles surrounding your knee, employ weight training or resistance bands to increase toning and strengthening. Each of the following exercises focus on specific muscle groups, and should be performed in 8-12 repetitions, starting with one set and gradually increasing to three sets in future workouts, with 1-2 minutes seconds of rest between sets.
Straight Leg Raise: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Bend your knee and place your feet flat on the floor with one leg; then tighten the thigh muscles of the other leg as you lift it slowly off the floor, approximately 8 inches. Keeping the raised leg straight and tight, gently lower it back to the floor.
Side-lying Leg Lift: Lie on one side, with one arm under your head, and the other draped over your core with your hand flat on the floor for support. Tighten the thigh muscles as you lift 8-10 inches above the other leg, and slowly lower it back down.
Quad Sets: Sit on the floor with one leg straight, and one leg bent. Tighten the muscles of the straight leg, and press it against the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, then release.
Clam Exercise: Lie on your side as you would with a side-lying leg lift, ensuring your hips are stacked and not leaning forward, and feet touching together. Slowly open your legs like a clam, keeping the heels touching, hold for three seconds and gently lower the leg.
Calf Raises: Place both hands on the wall or other supportive structure and slowly rise up on to your tiptoes. Gently return your heels to the floor.
Remember, knee injuries can happen easily and since the knee is the largest single joint in your body, stabilizes you, and is essential in the ability to bend and walk, it is important to be proactive by incorporating these simple exercises to prevent injury.