Whether you’re looking to keep your knees happy or you’ve been dealing with recurring pain, these 3 exercises are going to cover fundamental principles for strong, pain-free knees and to get you feeling and moving better.
BUT FIRST, a little background…
We have 4 muscle groups that interact directly with our knee: our hamstrings, quads, adductors (inner thigh) and calves. We also have muscles that work indirectly with our knee to help maintain joint position and improve (hopefully) our mechanics with double leg and single leg activities, such as our hip muscles and abs!
The first mistake we make when addressing our knee is thinking that each muscle group works independently from one another. Think clamshells, band walks, fire hydrants, donkey kicks, etc. Do they serve a purpose in general? Sure. But not nearly as much as you’d think when it comes to knee function and performance.
You see, our body is an extremely integrated system (it actually has multiple systems that are all integrated) and all these muscles interact with each other all the time to produce movements. We can facilitate the function of these muscles and get them working more efficiently, by learning to control things such as our pelvis and ribcage.
The goal of these 3 exercises are to improve your overall strength and control, and to learn how to start integrating hip muscles, hamstrings, inner thigh muscles and quads to improve your knee function and performance!
Here we go…
1. Step Downs
If you’re thinking “oh common, those are way too easy”, it’s probably because you’ve been going through the motions but not actually learning how to integrate these various muscles to maximize all the benefits from this exercise! These won’t disappoint! Don’t rush through this exercise, take your time to shift into your hip and maintain that as you control yourself down.
2. Kickstand RDL’s
There are many RDL variations, however this one happens to be one of our favorite ones! Unlike the single leg RDL, the kickstand allows you to still fully control what your pelvis is doing while loading up the front leg. Money.
Let’s start off by defining what we mean by squat: the ability to go straight down and back up like an elevator, keeping our ribcage stacked above our pelvis. In order to do this, we NEED our knees to travel over toes! (Note: There are different ways to squat depending on context and goal. However, the ability to perform a squatty squat remains just as important.)
3 reasons why squatting should be part of most rehab and training programs:
- It allows you to build strength and control through a full range of motion. It’s not only a great way to develop quads, but also requires increased integration of the abs, hamstrings, and inner groin muscles.
- Knees over toes is SAFE and promotes STRONG and ROBUST knees. Click here to learn more!
- Most importantly, it requires basic yet essential movement competencies, such as: hip mobility (flexion, internal + external rotation), the ability to keep a ribcage back, rotate a pelvis and sacrum, control of the pelvic floor and diaphragm, and the list goes on…
Variables you can change to progress or regress these exercises:
- The depth or range of motion – The greater the range of motion you use, the more challenging these exercises become. Stay within a tolerable pain-free range and make sure not to sacrifice your form for more depth!
- Load/Weight – Increase the weight used to make these more challenging. Again, try not to sacrifice your form for more weight with these exercises. Progressive overload principle – In order to get stronger, you want to gradually increase the demand and tension you’re placing on your body/muscles for them to adapt and get stronger.
- Tempo – You can mess around with the tempo to work on particularly challenging areas, or to create certain adaptations. You can add isometrics, or for example take 5 seconds on the descent of your squat, hold at the bottom for 2 seconds before exploding back up to the top and repeating.
As always, creating adaptations takes some time! If you want results, not miracles, staying consistent and progressing these exercises over time will yield strong, resilient, pain-free knees and have you moving and feeling better.
If you have any questions or if we can help you in any way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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