Strengthening Exercises to Reduce Knee Pain

STACK Expert Stephen Gamma explains why athletes need a mix of exercises that strengthen both their hips and thighs to alleviate knee pain.

Incline Lunge

AP Images

We ask a lot from our knee joint. It's a movement stabilizer that connects the foot and ankle to the core. Knee pain can limit movement and reduce mobility and agility.

Too many corrective knee exercises focus on strengthening the VMO—the teardrop muscle on the inside of the knee. But the VMO actually plays only a small role in controlling movement of the kneecap. You really need a mix of exercises that strengthen both your hips and your thighs.

Try the following exercises to develop a strong and stable knee for all activity.

Single-Leg Squats (Figures 1a and 1b) and balance exercises (Figure 2) work the gluteus medius, the muscle just above your hip bone. When this muscle is weak, the knees fall inward and put stress on the inside of the knee joint.

Single-Leg Squat

Single-Leg Squat - Figures 1a and 1b

Balance Exercise

Balance Exercise - Figure 2

Supine Bridge (Figure 3) and different Lunges strengthen the extensors such as the gluteus maximus and hamstrings—important muscles used in acceleration movements like running. Lunges also put the body in a similar position during deceleration. These will make you more athletic during cutting and changing direction activities.

Supine Bridge

Supine Bridge - Figure 3

Reactive Neuromuscular Training is a technique that requires a high level of body awareness. An Inline Lunge with low-resistance tubing (Figures 4a and 4b) basically tells your body to correct bad movement habits. Use resistance that gives you the feedback without fighting the exercise.

Inline Lunge with Resistance Tubing

Inline Lunge with Resistance Tubing - Figures 4a and 4b

References:

Kushion D, Rheaume J, Kopchitz K, Glass S, Alderink G and Jinn JH.  "EMG activation of the Vastus Medialis Oblique and Vastus Lateralis during four rehabilitative exercises." The Open Rehabilitation Journal (2012): 5, 1-7

Cook G, Burton L, Kiesel K, Rose G, Bryan M. "Anatomical Science versus Functional Science Movement." Functional Movement Systems (2010).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: PREHAB | INJURY PREVENTION | EXERCISE | INJURY | KNEE JOINT | TUBING