It should go without saying that exercise is good for you. Building strength in all muscles can help protect your joints by ensuring that they are not working extra hard to support your body.
If you are having knee problems, it’s especially important to strengthen your quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Keep in mind that your muscles work in pairs (e.g. quadriceps and hamstrings) and you are likely trying to correct an imbalance in your muscle function or prevent an imbalance. It’s helpful to talk with your orthopedist and/or a physical therapist to identify a plan that takes this into consideration.
However, there are several preventative exercises that can help you to improve and protect your knee function—before you develop a problem. Here are three of our favorites:
Lunges: You can perform a variety of lunges (traditional, diagonal, lateral, reverse and crossover) to improve knee function. Remember that lunges don’t require depth as much as frequency (and in fact, going too deep can cause damage).
Single-Leg Squats: These are particularly helpful for athletes, because most sports are single-leg dominant in nature. Doing single-leg squats can help to prevent drifting of the knee, which overloads the lumbar spine. They also improve strength, stability and balance.
Planks: It may be hard to see the connection between planks and strong knees, but remember that the whole musculoskeletal system is connected and an imbalance in one area can cause weakness in another, from compensation. Planks are all about core conditioning and core strength informs the function of several muscle groups, including your gluteal muscles.
Remember that if you’ve never performed these exercises before, it’s important to:
Get proper instruction
Start off slow (too many too fast = injury)