Engaged, strong quads (thigh muscles) are critical for pain-free knees. Weak quads and tight hamstrings are responsible for MOST knee injuries.
Strong quads increase the space between the thigh bone and shin bones. These bones are supposed to 'glide by' each other and never touch. The weaker the quads, the closer the bones come together, sometimes even touching. This causes surface erosion of the cartilage on the ends of each bone.
Eventually, this contact grinds down the cartilage and result in meniscus tears. Sometimes, small pieces of the meniscus float around the inside the knee joint causing intermittent pain.
These five easy exercises can make a huge difference in the health of your knees and help balance the strength of the quads in relationship to the hamstrings. With practice and consistency can alleviate knee pain. You’ll be ready to take a hike or hit the slopes worry-free!
The Wall Sit (and variations)
Pretend to be sitting in a chair. Stay upright by pushing your back into the wall. Keep your feet no farther than shoulder-width apart and always keep your toes slightly in front of your knees. Try and hold this for at least one minute.
For a challenge, march in place by raising one heel, then the other. You can also try crossing one leg over the other, then switch it out.
Because you should be fatigued, use this trick to get out of the wall sit.
Here is what to do:
Bend at the waist, and with your hands on the wall, push yourself forward.
Voila! You are standing.
A Forward Lunge
In a perfect, upright position, lunge forward. The back leg (shin) should be parallel with the floor. Remember to keep your toes slightly in front of the front knee.
Things to remember:
The Side Lunge
Again staying perfectly upright, hold in your abs in to control balance and lunge sideways. Both hands on the front thigh. Remember, your toes slightly in front of your bent knee. Try and hold for 30 seconds and do the same on the other leg.
The Air Squat
With your legs shoulder width apart, begin to sit back with your butt pushing out. Keep your weight on the full foot, not on the heels, and use arms in front to counterbalance. Think: I'm going to sit in a chair.
Hold for a slow count of 30. Stand relax and repeat for another 30!
HINT: It is a good habit is to hover a few seconds before slowly lowering yourself into the office chair. This is great for the quads!
The Leg Raise
Seated, lift one leg straight out in front. Hyper-flex the foot toward the shin to engage the quads. Really push hard to get the quad pumped up. You can point and flex your foot at least 10 reps.
You can also use a theraband to add resistance, point and flex your foot. Do at least 10 reps per side.
NOW STRETCH THE QUADS!