Our body’s movement is comprised of a kinetic chain. The chains are linked by a movement and stability pattern. The knee is a joint that is designed for stability.
How do you strengthen your knee?
In order to strengthen the knee, improve hip and ankle mobility, we must identify muscles that are prime movers and stabilizers and balance. There are two big muscle groups that have direct influence on the knee – the quadriceps and hamstrings. The quadriceps when flexed extend the knee or straighten it. The hamstrings when flexed, flex the knee or bend it.
When strengthening your knee utilize exercises that are knee movement patterns. Any lunging, squatting and step up exercises will activate the skeletal muscles that support and stabilize the knee and improve balance. Before increasing range of motion of joints of the exercises, perform each exercise with pain free range of motion. These three variations of exercises are knee dominant patterns so they are functional and practical for an active daily lifestyle.
What do I do if my knees are so weak I can complete body movement patterns such as squats, lunges and step ups?
Great question! Start with machine and or pin-loaded equipment to use less resistance and the knees are in a controlled environment. The knee extension, leg press and leg curl machines are key basic strength machines to begin strengthening your knees.
Exercises to strengthen your knee
Hip bridges are important for strengthening your knees because the exercises strengthens and activates the glutes and improves hip extension patterns. The glutes work synergistically with your quads to create knee extension. If your hips lack mobility then your knee and or low back decrease stability and mobility to allow your body to move. This destabilization weakens the knee and or back and there is an increase chance for discomfort, pain, and injury.
Single leg raises are necessary for hamstring flexibility and hip mobility. This exercise strengthens trunk stability and reinforce hip mobility.
Lateral leg raises strengthen the gluteal medius, improve knee stability and hip mobility.
All three floor exercises improve the strength knee strength, by improve hip mobility and muscle strengthening of stabilizers and prime movers of the knee.
The importance of hip and ankle
When strengthening the knee, it is imperative to improve and maintain hip and ankle mobility, reinforce knee stability and strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee and prime movers. Strengthening the knee does not require heavy squats or walking lunges. Start simple, floor exercises can improve hip mobility and strengthen muscles that stabilize the knee. Pin loaded equipment such as the leg press, leg extension, and leg curls can strengthen the knee’s prime movers. Maintaining the strength of your knees is important for sustaining an active daily lifestyle and quality of life.
Remember the body is comprised of a kinetic chain of movement and stability sequencing. At the end of the day, you are only as strong as the weakest link.