Achieving muscle balance in strength training is as important as attention to good form when it comes to preventing injuries. As the largest joint in our body, our knees can be highly susceptible to injury. Here are some things to think about to help protect them.
The knee is a hinge joint, which means it is responsible for both flexion and extension of your leg. Your quadriceps extend the knee, while your hamstrings flex the knee. Both quadriceps and hamstrings are responsible for supporting your knees. Your inner thigh muscles, the adductors, move your leg your leg to the midline (center) of your body, while your outer thigh muscles, the abductors, act to move your leg away from the midline of your body. Adductors and abductors also act as knee stabilizers.
The knee a precarious joint that can be easily injured because of the force of impact it often endures. Several sports and weight-bearing exercises we love to participate in can put our knees at risk. I notice my knees feel achy when I increase my running mileage without upping my weight training. Therefore, it is important to add lower body strength training to our routine to keep our knees healthy and decrease the risk of injury.
Because the quadriceps and hamstrings work as antagonistic muscle groups (opposite, and opposing each other in movement), we need to strengthen both groups. We should also be careful not to neglect our adductors and abductors. Developing each of these muscle groups equally can help us decrease the risk of knee injury.
Exercises to Consider for Healthy Knees:
Always begin with at least a ten minute warm up to wake up your muscles.
Squats are a great exercise because they call on hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles to execute the exercise.
Like squat, leg press incorporates the hamstrings and quadriceps, as well as glutes.
These isolate the back of your thighs and strengthen the hamstrings.
Leg extension isolates the front of your thighs and builds the quadriceps. For some, this exercise puts too much stress on the knees, and should be done with moderate weight and monitored closely.
Steps up on a bench, stairs, or platform will strengthen both hamstrings and quadriceps.
Walking or static lunges are great for working the major muscles of your hips and glutes, as well as your hamstrings and quadriceps.
Abductor/ Adductor Machine
Come on, we have all watched people on this one at the gym and cringed, but it is part of a healthy knee routine. Toning the muscles of your inner and outer thighs adds beautiful definition, but also strengthens these knee stabilizers.
Platform Lateral Squats
Begin by standing to the side of a step platform. With your left leg leading first, squat up onto the platform. Bring right foot up to the left until you are standing on top of platform, and immediately bring your left foot to the floor on the other side of step, so you are now squatting down. Allow your right foot to follow. Repeat squatting up and over the step, alternating the leading leg.
Building strong legs not only enhances their appearance, it can increase your athletic performance, improve your balance, and prevent time off working out due to injury. Like most things in life, achieving balance is a key component when it comes to increasing leg strength and preserving your knees.