You love working out, and morning runs have become an essential part of your day. Problem is, your knees aren’t in agreement. Rather than hanging up your running shoes, consider incorporating strength training exercises into your workout routine. While strengthening certain muscle groups may not entirely eliminate knee pain, it can help minimize it.
A traditional workout routine of squats and lunges is not the place to start. Instead, begin with specific movements to target both the quadriceps and glutes. This lower body workout combines isolation exercises with functional movements to strengthen the muscles that support the knees. Start off slowly and progress only if you have no pain.
Lay on the ground face up. Bend your right knee, keeping your right foot flat on the ground. Extend your left leg out straight, pushing slightly through the heel to activate your quads. Squeeze your left quadriceps, and lift your left leg no higher than your right knee. Lower the left leg, but don’t let your heel touch the ground. Do 10-12 repetitions. Then switch sides.
Lay on the ground face up. Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground by squeezing your glutes until your torso is straight, then lower slowly back to the ground. (If this version is too easy, lift one leg off the ground.) Repeat 10-12 times, keeping a slight but constant contraction in your glutes.
Stand up, facing an aerobic step or stair, with a dumbbell in each hand. Step onto the top of the step with your right foot. As you step, make sure your weight is in the heel and mid- foot, not the ball of the foot. Step up with the left foot and tap the top of the step. Step back down with your left foot, and then your right. Do 10-12 repetitions, then repeat with the left foot leading.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Stand on your left foot with your right foot lifted off the ground. Without locking your left knee, squeeze your left glute muscles and hinge forward from your hips as though you are reaching for something over your right toe. Don’t touch the ground, but do try to make your torso parallel to the ground. Return to the starting position. (If balance is an issue, hold onto a wall or chair as you perform this movement.) Repeat for 10-12 repetitions, then switch and perform on the right side.
Stand with your back against a wall. Your feet should be 6-8 inches away from the wall. Slowly lower your upper body into a sitting position, then stop when your legs are almost parallel to the ground. Keep your weight in your heels and hold for a count of 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 2-4 times.
Try these five leg strengthening exercises two to three times a week, and reassess your pain level. If you don’t see improvement in your knee pain, see a doctor to find out why. If any of the movements cause more pain, stop immediately and consult your physician. If you see positive results from these exercises, consider seeing a physical therapist or personal trainer to help you continue to strengthen your lower body.