Knees are the most commonly injured joints in the body, where even everyday wear and tear can end up hurting your mobility. When it comes to fortifying your knees, strength training could be the answer. Your feet, lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, core muscles, and arms are all connected in a kinetic chain, when you are running, walking or going about daily activities. When one link isn’t working, the repercussions can be felt up or down the chain.
Strong quad muscles will help stabilize your knee, and strong hips, glutes, and core muscles will prevent your hip from dropping and your knees from caving in. The following workouts aim to keep your joints from stiffening and help ward off several common injuries. Doing these exercises twice a week will keep your knees and the rest of the chain working smoothly.
A classic squat variation, for the Russian Squat Jump, stand straight and keep your legs wide and toes pointed outward. Go into a squat position, and keep your hands locked behind your head or crossed in front of you at shoulder height. Jump up to a comfortable height, but not too high and then come back to original position. In this variation, you will not be stretching your arms outwards as you jump up. Instead, the focus is to land back in a deep squat position. An excellent exercise for those experienced with squats. Do 4 sets of 15.
You can do this at home or at a park as long as you find a clean wall to use for it. It’s a multi-dimensional knee exercise which not only targets the knees, but improves strength and flexibility of your hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and abdominal muscles. Consider this to be a lower-intensity alternative to squats and lunges. Touch your upper back and butt to the wall and sit on an air chair for about 10-15 seconds, before coming back up. A few reps of 20-second wall sits a few times a week is plenty for most runners.
Like wall sits, lunges also target your glutes, quads, inner thighs and the gluteal end of your hamstrings. But they add increased shock absorption capacity to your knees. An additional benefit here is that it requires you to balance on one leg during the transition phase when you switch legs, just like in running. As a result, it helps strengthen and stabilize your knees as you balance on the foot in contact with the floor. Stretch out with one leg, in front of the other and bend the leg behind, before lifting it and planting it in front of the first leg. Continue this for 5 paces.
With a plyometric boost, this twist on the standard lunges sculpts the legs and glutes while training agility and lateral strength. Get into the setup position of any lunge and bring your front knee over your ankle and keep your rear leg extended behind you up resting on the toes. Your weight should be centred between your feet.
Slowly bend both knees until your back knee barely touches the floor, before jumping upward and about a foot to the side. Make sure you land softly and in the same lunge position. Put in the next rep immediately. Use your arms to help generate power and height, while exploding upwards. Do this as part of a plyometric workout or as a finisher on lower body day. 5 to 8 reps on each leg for three sets should be good enough, but don’t forget to rest between sets.
Again, mountain climbers are a very good exercise to engage your core and strengthen your glutes. Start in the push-up position. Facing the ground, place your palms facing downwards with your arms pressing into your sides. Maintain the push-up position with the legs extended behind you, and core engaged. Raise your left knee to your left shoulder, then return your foot to the floor. Alternate legs, bringing your right knee to your right shoulder, then returning it back to the floor. This exercise needs to create a similar rhythm as if you are running. Do two sets of 6 reps each.
Reverse Hip Raises
Lie facedown on a bench with your torso on the bench and your hips off it. Keeping your legs nearly straight, lift them until they are in line with your torso. Squeeze your glutes, raise your hips, and pause; then lower to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 15. You can also do this exercise with a Swiss ball, placing your hands flat on the floor in front of you for support.