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Do any of us focus on strengthening our knee joints to get more lean, toned and sexy knees? Probably not. But your knees may be the most important joint in your body in terms of your overall fitness. If your knees are sore or weak, it will hamper your overall ability to achieve the level of weight loss or fitness you are going for, because all leg and glute strengthening exercises and all cardio exercise depends upon strong knee joints.
That said, it’s important to do what we can to strengthen our knees to avoid injury and to take care of them when they’re feeling sore. As we get older, all of our joints begin to degenerate, especially the knees which we use extensively every day of our lives.
Below are the best ways to care for sore knees, stretches to make sure knee joints stay lubricated and exercises to build strength in this important joint!
SELF-CARE FOR SORE KNEES
In most cases, minor knee soreness can be treated at home with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories like aspirin or ibuprofen. Lie on your back and elevate the knee on a pillow. Apply ice to it for periods of no more than 20 minutes at a time about once an hour. You might also consider applying a topical pain relieving ointment. It’s recommended to refrain from strength training the legs and from cardio activities until your knees are feeling better. If the pain continues for more than a few days, make an appointment to see the doctor.
IT Band Roll
The iliotibial band is a long piece of fascia that runs down the outer side of your leg from the hip to the knee. With leg strength training and cardiovascular exercise such as running, the IT bands can become tight causing them to pull a bit on the knee joints. Lying on your side with your hips on top of a foam roller, you can roll some of this IT band stiffness out to avoid strain on your knees. Rolling the IT band can be somewhat painful, especially if it is very tight. Here’s a time when you can distract yourself with television while you’re doing an exercise!
This move will help loosen up and lubricate the full breadth of the knee joint. Stand with feet together with a slight bend in the knees and lower yourself into a partial squat. Place the palms of your hands on the kneecaps and slowly move your knees together in a circular motion, first clockwise for 10 small circles, then counterclockwise for 10 small circles. Your feet should remain stationary.
The hamstring muscle on the back of the thigh and the calve muscle on the back of the lower leg can both pull on the knee joint when they’re stiff. To combat this, stretch both the hamstring and calve muscles regularly. You can stretch the hamstrings by standing, bending forward and reaching hands toward the floor until you feel a stretch, or by sitting with both or one leg stretched outward reaching forward. Calve stretches can be done by standing on a step with one heel hanging over the edge and pushing that leg downward to achieve a gentle stretch.
GENTLE KNEE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
These are a more gentle version of the squats we do for leg strengthening. As you perform this movement, focus in on the portion of the leg muscles around the knees rather than on strengthening the quadriceps muscles. Stand straight against a wall with legs shoulder width apart. Place the feet approximately 12 – 18 inches from the wall. Lift your chest, pull in your abs and squat like you are sitting down, until you feel the muscles above and around the knees engage. You may not have to come all the way down into sit position to get the benefits of this exercise. Your knees should be directly above the ankle joints, not out in front – if they’re in front, you’ll need more space between your feet and the wall. Hold for one second and stand back up. Repeat 10 times.
Standing behind a chair to grasp it for balance, place your weight on your left leg and bring your right foot up off the floor. Bring the heel back in the direction of your buttocks keeping your knees together. When you feel the hamstring muscle engage, hold for 5 seconds and then release. You may also feel a stretch across the front of your knee. Don’t push this exercise to the point of pain in your knees. Continue for 10 repetitions on each leg.
Sitting on a chair, place a rubber ball between your knees. Squeeze your knees together holding the ball in place for 10 seconds. Release and rest for a few seconds and then repeat for 10 repetitions. If you don’t have a ball handy, you can also use a rolled up towel.
Hopefully these tips and exercises will have you on your way to healthy, happy knees. If you’re dealing with knee pain that doesn’t resolve after a few days of rest, make an appointment with a doctor or physical therapist to rule out a serious injury and to get medical advice on how to heal your knee joints.
Even if the knee injury gets in the way of your workout, don’t dispair. Remember – if you can make it through this injury without giving up on your goals, you will be more likely to make it through other situations without abandoning them – like vacations, holiday time, illness, or difficulties at work or home. In fact, this is what it really means to make a LIFESTYLE CHANGE – to stick with it no matter what your situation.
Overall, the most important requiring for a lasting LIFESTYLE CHANGE is flexibility. It’s important to choose a flexible nutrition and fitness plan, and be flexible with yourself so that you can adapt to life’s never-ending series of changes. We designed our Athlean-XX for Women nutrition and fitness plan to have built-in flexibility from the get-go. The fitness program can be done at home OR at the gym. For the nutrition portion of the program, you can follow our 12 weeks of set meals, pick and choose the ones you like, or make up your own meals based on our lists of recommended foods!
Don’t forget that at Athlean-XX for Women, we’re here to support you. While we recommend that you speak to a doctor about your injury and follow his or her recommendations, we are available to answer your questions about the program on our Facebook Community!
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