The knee is a relatively complex joint, made up of several structures, including; ligaments, tendons, bones and cartilage. Over time, with repetitive load, these structures can become weakened or damaged leading to pain and other unwanted symptoms. One common complaint for the knee is a sensation of weakness/giving way, partnered with clicking/locking; This is usually linked to the structure known as the meniscus, the cartilage that lines and protects the knee joint.
Generic advice will usually be to rest until symptoms have resolved and slowly build back up to pre-pain activity level. Whilst this method is effective in the short-term, it may not prevent recurrence or the long-term effects of loading the knee.
Exercise therapy strengthens the structures supporting the knee joint which in turn provides stability, control and a reduction of pain/symptoms.
This blog post will focus on a few key exercises that we love here at Sweat, to help build strength and exceed pre-pain activity levels! They are demonstrated by Sweat Trainer, Laura, who damaged two of the main knee ligaments 3 months ago and is undergoing exercise therapy, before considering surgery, to return to top level American Football.
1. End of range knee extension
- Tie a resistance band around a pole/something stable
- Step one foot into the resistance band and take a staggered stance with the free leg behind and the front knee bent. There should be tension on the band.
- Slowly straighten the bent knee, pushing back on the resistance band.
- Controlling the movement return back to the start position with the front knee bent.
You should feel this exercise mainly on the inside of the knee as it targets the Vastus Medialis (VMO) muscle. It is a great exercise to warm up the stabilising tissues before completing larger compound movements.
2. Hamstring bridge
- Using a box or a step, lie down on your back with your heels raised.
- Flatten the back against the floor and lift the lower back up off the floor.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement before slowly controlling the way back down.
This exercise works the glutes and hamstrings, the further away your bum is from the step, the more challenging it is for the hamstrings. Start in closer and slowly progress further away.
3. Split squat
- Begin in a lunge position, you will work both sides, so it doesn’t matter which foot is forward.
- Pushing through the heel of your front foot and the toes on your back foot, slowly lower straight down
- Aim for both knees to be at a right angle before pushing up to return to the start position.
- Complete all reps on one side before swapping the legs over.
This exercise works all the major muscles in the legs, core and back like a lunge does, however, it takes out the instability and impact that comes with lunges.
4. Single leg stand-up
- Sit on a box which is knee height (or higher for first attempt).
- Lift one foot up off the floor (start by lifting the injured side to practice movement)
- Push through the foot that is on the floor, whilst also engaging your glutes and core to come to a standing position.
- Slowly control the movement back down to sitting, whilst remaining on one leg
- Complete all reps on one side before swapping to the other side.
This exercise is great for targeting the quads, whilst also working the core and glutes. It is a difficult exercise so don’t worry if you don’t get it first time, the key with this one is practice and perseverance!
5. Plyo box step up
- Place one foot on top of the plyo box (again start on the non-injured side to practice).
- Push through the foot on the plyo box to lift the other leg off the floor.
- Drive the non-weight bearing leg up to bring the hip and knee to a right angle.
- Squeeze your glutes and core.
- Slowly lower back down to the start position before repeating.
This is a more challenging, plyometric exercise and it is important to start at a lower height and build up gradually. When performed correctly, this exercise will work all the major muscle groups of the lower body and the core.
6. Bosu Squat
- Stand one foot on one side of the Bosu, then slowly place the other foot on to bring yourself to standing on the Bosu (use someone to help you if this is new).
- Imagine pulling your feet away from each other to help keep the Bosu balanced.
- Slowly lower down into a squat position.
- Squeeze the glutes again at the bottom of the move and bring yourself back to standing.
This is an advance exercise for those who are confident in squatting, it challenges the core and stabilising structures to maintain balance and control around the hip, knee and ankle joints. Use someone or something stable to help with balance if it is a new exercise.
With correct technique, all of these exercises are useful during knee rehabilitation, or even just to add into a usual work out for more of a challenge!
If you do have a knee injury, or are trying these out for the first time, it is advised to seek guidance and coaching points to ensure you get the best out of each exercise.
For more advice, or if you have any questions please click the button below to get in touch with our team!