Strengthening the muscles around the knees can help reduce their workload.
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Athletes know all too well how prone the knees are to injury. Strengthening the muscles around the knees, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings, can provide valuable support, helping your knees absorb shock. If you feel pain while doing knee exercises, stop immediately and talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the best way to proceed. Warm up for five to 10 minutes before exercising: a brisk walk or bike ride will suffice.
The straight leg raise is a simple exercise designed to strengthen the quadriceps, the muscles of the front of the thighs. Lie down on your back, straightening one leg and bending the other. Tighten your stomach muscles, pressing your lower back flat against the floor, and lift your straight leg until it is approximately 1 foot off the floor. Hold for three to five seconds and lower your leg back to the floor. Switch sides. For added challenge, use ankle weights.
Feel the Curl
Hamstring curls strengthen your hamstrings, the muscles of the back of the thighs. Holding onto the back of a chair for balance, shift your weight into one leg and lift your other leg, bending your heel towards your buttocks. Hold for three to five seconds and then lower your leg. Switch sides. You should have your knees close together while doing this exercise. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons cautions not to lock, or overly straighten, the knee of your supporting leg or bring your heel past a 90-degree angle.
Step-Up to Health
To strengthen the thighs, hips and buttocks, use a 6-inch platform or high stool to perform step-ups. Step one foot forward onto the platform, placing the whole foot firmly on the platform to provide support. Keep your leg straight but don't lock your knee. Lift your other foot off the floor and let it dangle loosely in the air. Hold for three to five seconds, then lower your hanging foot back to the floor. Step down and switch sides.
Don't Know Squat
Squats are a powerful quadricep strengthener that can be done with the supportive assistance of a wall. Start by standing with your back pressed against the wall and step both of your feet about 2-feet forward. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles and slide down the wall slowly until you are in a sitting position, or until you feel a burn in your quadriceps. Do not slide so low that your hips are lower than your knees, or that your knees move over your toes. Slide back up the wall to release.
Strengthening the calves, the muscles of the lower leg, and the IT bands, which run from the buttocks to the back of the knees, can also be beneficial for knee health. To do the crab walk, stand with your knees slightly bent, a resistance band around your ankles. Take small, even steps to the side to strengthen your IT band. Step 10 to 15 steps in each direction. To do calf raises, stand on a step or sidewalk so that your heels are hanging off the edge. Raise and lower your body, extending your heels down. "Shape" magazine recommends doing 10 repetitions slowly and 20 quickly.