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When it comes to preventing knee pain, knee strengthening exercises are the way to go.
This might sound like a big claim, but plenty of research shows that something as simple as basic bodyweight strength training can help, a lot.
In fact, as a runner, if you are plagued with knee pain and you are serious about preventing any future trouble, or God Forbid, severe knee injury, then you should really start working on adding strength to your knees by doing the exercises I’m going to share with you today.
A Common Problem
About 50 million Americans suffer from some sort of knee trouble, making the knees the most commonly injured joint in the body. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to running injuries, knee injuries are some of the most common types of injury there is.
In fact, roughly half of all overuse injuries that runners strike the knees.
The good news is that it’s not too late. With the right maintenance strategies, your knee can be pain-free.
As a result, don’t let knee pain or injury stand in the way of your running success; you can beat knee pain for good if you follow the right knee pain prevention approach.
So what does the right approach entail?
The right approach for preventing (and beating) knee pain when running focuses on a cross-training routine that includes plenty of exercises that strengthens the knee region.
For the most part, as a general guideline, the ideal routine is about adding strength to your glutes and hip abductors—all of the key muscles for keeping you stable while you hit the pavement.
Adding strength and power to the muscles surrounding the knee joints—Adductor (inside thigh), Abductor (outside thigh), hamstrings (muscles of the back of the thigh), and Quadriceps (muscles of the front of the thigh)—will make your knees stronger and less prone to injury.
Runners who do a regular strength routine suffer from less pain, recover faster from knee injuries, and end up enjoying a relatively pain-free and injury free running career.
Would you want that? Of course, you would
Weak Muscles and Knee Pain
According to research, weak muscles—especially those of the hips and glutes—is a major predictor of knee pain.
On the other hand, stability in the lower body is crucial for preventing patellofemoral pain syndrome and IT band syndrome. Study has shown an undeniable link between weak hips and glutes muscles to patellofemoral pain syndrome and other knee injuries.
If you have weak hip muscles, your running form will be compromised since your hips won’t be able to accurately control the motion of your legs.
Note: Serious about beating knee pain? Then check out “Bulletproof Your Knee:” by Jim Johnson. Get it from Amazon here.
The Best Exercises for Preventing Knee Pain While Running
Google “knee strength exercises” and you the search engine will come up with hundreds of exercises.
Therefore, there is really an abundance knee strengthening exercises out there, making it hard to find the right ones that can help you reach your next running level.
As a result, today I’m sharing with you my favorites. These have made the cut. I do them regularly, and they never fail me.
In most cases, you will start noticing some real progress after only two to three weeks of doing these knee exercises on a regular basis.
Therefore, here are my favorite seven moves that are easy to perform, simple, effective and suitable for most runners from all fitness levels and training backgrounds.
Do this knee strength routine as a part of your warm-up before a run—especially if you have a bad history of knee pain. You can also do this routine whenever and wherever you like, just be consistent.
Doing this simple knee strength routine at least three times a week can increase strength in the region, build your range of motion and improve flexibility and mobility as well.
1. Wall Sits
Begin with your back against a wall with feet shoulder-width apart, two to three from the wall.
To do this move right, slowly slide your back against the wall, using your hands on the wall for balance, until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle and thighs parallel to the ground. Make sure your back is against the wall with feet and legs parallel the entire time.
Next, press your back against the wall, and hold the squat with your hands in front, for one to two minutes.
Do two to three sets.
2. Side-Lying Straight-Leg Hip Abduction
Start by laying on your side on the floor or on the mat with your legs stacked on top of one another with hips flexed to 30 degrees.
Next, raise the top leg up as high as possible, hold it for a count of three at the top position, then return to starting position.
Make sure that your movements are very slow, small and targeted to the glutes medius—the muscle just below and behind the hips. Be sure this muscle is firing properly by doing your best to engage it throughout the movement. Place your hand on it if you have to.
Do at least 10 reps on each side to complete one set. Do two sets.
3. Straight Leg Raise
Start by lying on the floor or mat on your back with one leg straight and the other bent.
Next, while keeping your lower back in contact with the ground, raise your straight leg to about 45-degree angle with the knee and toes facing the ceiling the entire time. Hold it for a count of three, then slowly return to the starting position.
Do at least 8 reps on each side to complete one set. Aim for two sets.
Find a bench or a step, about two feet high, and place your foot on it. Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle.
In case you don’t have a bench or plyo box nearby, then a dining room chair can do the trick.
To begin this exercise, step up onto the support with your right foot, then the left, straightening your knees fully. Then step down to the starting position by leading with your right foot, then the left, until you end up with both feet on the floor. If you have balance issues, then pump your arms while doing this move.
Do at least 16 steps before leading tithe left foot for another 16 steps to complete one set. Do two sets.
5. Sit to Stand
Start by sitting in a firm chair, feet on the floor with a small ball or pillow between your knees. Sit on the chair so that your hips and knees both form right angles.
Next, while leaning forward, raise up and stand up straight and then sit back down in a slow and controlled manner.
In case this version is too challenging, you can always make it easier by pushing up through your arms, and keep in mind that the lower the chair, the harder the exercise.
Repeat for at least 12 times to complete one set. Do two sets.
To make this exercise more challenging, wrap a resistance band around both legs just below your knees.
Start by laying on your right side, preferably with your back to a wall, with your hips and knees bent at a 45-degree angle, legs stacked.
Next, while keeping your feet in contact with each other, raise your left knee as high as possible without moving your pelvis, pause for a moment, then slowly bring it down to starting position.
Do 16 to 20 reps on one side, then switch sides.
7. One-legged Deadlifts
You can make this exercise more challenging by grabbing a pair of dumbbells.
Begin by standing on your right foot, then raise your left foot behind you and bend your knee so your left shin is parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep the left leg off the floor the entire set of reps.
Next, bend forward at your hips, and slowly lower your body as far as you can, pause, then push your body back to the upright position.
Make sure your chest is up and core activated throughout the movement.
Shoot for at least 12 to 15 reps on one leg, then switch sides to complete one set. Do at least 3 sets.
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