We place a great deal of weight on our knees during any physical activity. Because of this, it is important to keep the knees strengthened through exercise. Understanding the structure of the area is key to making sure that all supporting elements are fortified to avoid injury.
Components of the knee joint include the femur at the bottom of the thighbone, the tibia at the top of the shinbone, and the patella or kneecap. These bones are connected to each other with cartilage and ligaments, with the meniscus appearing where the femur and tibia meet in order to cushion the area.
The iliotibial band or IT band is a dense tissue that runs from the outside of the pelvis to the outside of knee. This band stabilizes the knee and can be torn due to strain or over-activity. The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is a ligament deep within the joint, which can be torn during vigorous activities like running or landing incorrectly from a jump. The meniscus can be hurt due to improper twisting or pivoting.
The knees are supported by three main muscle groups: the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals. Keeping these muscles strong will strengthen the knees and prevent injuries. Here are a few exercises we at Live Well Holistic Health recommend before engaging in strenuous activity:
For the IT Band
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Cross one leg over the other and pull the knee as close as you can into the chest. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat with other leg.
Lunges are an excellent way to strengthen the quadriceps. Stand upright with your hands on your hips and take a large step forward. Bend the front leg until it forms a right angle over the foot. Your back knee should lower until it is almost the touching floor. Repeat on each side up to ten times and increase as you get stronger.
Stand in front of a raised surface and step up with one foot, then the other, and then back down. Start with a small stair and increase the height to create a greater challenge.
Squats help to strengthen the buttocks. Stand upright and squat to the ground, bending you knees and only going as far as you can while still keeping your back straight. Do three sets of ten and increase as you get stronger.
Jumping rope is an excellent exercise for strengthening all three muscle groups. Warm up with the above exercises. Then when you jump, make sure you land each time with bent knees. Your heels should be as close to the ground as possible with each landing in order to properly stretch the Achilles tendon and calf muscle.
Low Impact Exercises
If you feel pain while doing any activity, switch to low impact exercises like yoga, swimming, walking or bike riding. These are all excellent for strengthening and stretching the entire body.
For more information on healthy protocols, please contact us today.