After surgery or an injury, physical therapy and exercise will help you return to the activities of daily living and to a more active lifestyle. If you do not have knee issues, strengthening exercise can help you avoid injury or surgery. Below is a general conditioning program. If you have had an injury or surgery you should talk to your doctor or physical therapist about which exercises are best.
Before doing any resistance exercises, warm up for 5 – 10 minutes to prepare your body for strengthening exercises. After a warm-up, you can begin your resistance workout to strengthen the muscles around your knee which reduces the stress on the joint. Strong muscles will help knee function and safeguard against injury. After strength work, you want to use stretching exercises to restore range of motion and prevent future injuries. Gentle stretching will keep you muscles flexible.
The muscle groups associated with knees are:
• Quadriceps – front of the thigh
• Hamstrings – back of the thigh
• Abductors – outer thigh
• Adductors – inner thigh
• Gluteus medium and gluteus maximum – buttocks
Exercising these muscle groups help protect your knee from injury and many of these exercises are necessary to recover from knee injury or surgery.
Below are some suggested exercises for strengthening the muscles groups listed above. If you feel pain during an exercise, talk to your physical therapist or doctor. If you need more detailed information about an exercise, talk to a Certified Personal Trainer or your Physical Therapist.
• Squat: works quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
• Stand with feet shoulder distance apart. Hands on hips or reaching in front or holding on to the back of a chair for balance
• Keep your chest lifted by looking forward and slowly lower hips about 10 inches like your were sitting in a chair (Do NOT bend at the waist)
• Heels are glued to the floor
• Hamstring curls: works the hamstrings.
• Hold on the back of a chair for balance
• Bend your knee and raise your heel towards your buttocks (Keep your knees close together)
• To make this more difficult ankle weights can be added.
• Calf raises: works calf muscles.
• Hold on to the back of a chair for balance and lift foot off the floor so all your weight is on one foot. Then switch.
• Leg extensions – works the quadriceps
• Sit up straight on a chair
• Slowly straighten and raise one leg as straight as possible.
• To make this more difficult, ankle weights can be added.
• Abductors – works abductors and glutes
• Sit up straight on a chair with elastic tubing under your feet or standing on tubing (do not bend over). Cross the tubing so you have a big X in front.
• Step to one side making sure your toes are pointed forward then step to the other side.
• To make this more difficult, use stronger tubing.
I recommend 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 16 repetitions 4 to 5 times per week unless you are using heavy weights. When using heavy weights, reduce to 3 times per week.
These muscle groups can also be worked using various weight machines found at fitness centers or performing different moves lying on a floor or table to work against gravity. I recommend the above exercises because they can almost all be done standing which adds the additional core work for balance and can easily be performed in a group class.
After completing strength exercises, end your workout with some good stretches. Include the following stretches:
• Calf stretch
• Hamstring stretch
• Quadriceps stretch
• Hip flexor stretch
Hold each stretch 20 to 30 seconds and perform 2 or 3 times. Stretches are tempting to omit, but are every bit as important strengthening exercises.
For additional information, contact Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530 or visit one of her classes at the Athens Senior Center or Round Island Baptist Church.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.