The knee is one of the most complex joints in the body composed of muscles, ligaments, cartilage, bone and tendons. Because of its complexity and range of motion, it is also one of our most injury prone joints. Our knees do so much for us but we rarely appreciate them until something goes wrong. Appropriate exercises and stretches will help keep the knee joint healthy through the wear and tear of everyday life.
- Lateral Step Up With Kick: Stand with your left side next to a stable step about 12 inches high. Side step onto the step with your left foot while lifting your right knee. Your hip should be bent at a 90 degree angle. Kick your foot out until your leg is straight. Bring your leg back in and lower your right foot back to the floor. Bring your left foot down off the step to be back in the starting position. Complete two sets of this exercise on each leg with 8 to 12 repetitions in each set. This exercise strengthens the outside quad muscle.
- Hip Lift: Stand on your left foot using a wall for balance. Bend your right knee to lift your right foot off the ground. Drop your right hip slightly toward the wall then lift it up away from the wall. As you drop your right hip, do not bend your supporting leg. This is a very subtle movement and any burn should be felt in your glute muscles. Do 15 to 20 reps on each side. This exercise strengthens the glutes that stabilize the knee.
- Step Down: Stand on a stable step about 12 inches high. Put your weight on your right foot. Lower your left leg toward the floor making sure that your right knee stays directly over your right foot. Lift your left leg back up to the step. Do 2 sets of 10 on each leg. This exercise strengthens the glues and the knee.
- Leg Lift: Lie on your right side with your upper body propped up on your elbow and your hips stacked directly over each other and your legs extend straight. Lift your left leg about 2 feet toward the ceiling then lower back down to the right leg without bringing it to a complete rest on top of your right leg. During this exercise, lead the leg lift with the heel of your foot to maximize engagement of the glute muscles. Repeat this exercise 20 to 30 times on each side.
These are just a few exercises that can be employed to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee. Balance and stretching are key to maintaining knee health. As you strengthen the muscles you also need to stretch them to prevent muscles from shortening and creating uneven pull in the joints.