Do your knees just not move the way you’d like them to? Knee pain or discomfort is more common than you might think.
Fortunately, there are some simple exercises that you can do to improve your range of mobility and strengthen the muscles around your knees. When you take care of your knees, you ensure that you’re able to continue doing the activities you love.
And besides, who doesn’t like a lean, strong pair of legs?
The muscles surrounding your knees are primarily made up of three large groups of muscles.
Your quadriceps are located at the front of your legs, and the hamstrings are located at the back of your upper thighs. These powerful muscles need to be trained equally to prevent muscle imbalances which can make you more susceptible to injury, and thus, knee pain.
Your soleus and gastrocnemius are the calf muscles that help you balance and stabilize as you perform balance exercises.
When all three of these muscle groups are strong and balanced, you’ll prevent injury and instability in your knees, as well as improve your athletic performance.
This multitasking exercise strengthens the muscles above and below your knees.
It will also make you feel the burn. With feet hip width apart, lower your hips into a half squat. Holding this position, perform a set of calf raises, staying in a squat hold the entire time.
Make it Easier: Maintain a shallow squat.
Make it Harder: Hold a deep squat as you perform calf raises.
This exercise can be very tough for those with knee pain, but can also gradually be adjusted to increase intensity as your knees get stronger.
Start with your back flush to a wall. Walk your feet a couple of feet away from the wall so that your weight is in your heels.
Now, slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel. Hold for anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes.
Make it Easier: Lower, but keep your thighs above parallel.
Make it Harder: Try alternating lifting your heels, one at a time.
Stand on your right leg. Bring your bent left knee up to hip height. Now straighten your left leg and hold it in front of you for three seconds.
Bend your knee back to start. Repeat for repetitions. Then perform the exercise on your other leg.
On all fours, bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Lift your leg so that your bent knee is parallel with the floor.
Keeping the same distance between your right knee in the floor, lengthen your leg, then curl it back to 90 degrees.
Repeat for repetitions, then perform on your left leg.
The wide stance of these squats recruits the muscles of the glutes and hamstrings, which when under-trained can contribute to knee pain and injury. The secret is in the foot placement of these squats, which is slightly wider than traditional squats.
Start out with toes slightly turned out and your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Lower your hips back and down as if sitting in a chair. Lower your thighs as closely to parallel as possible.
Make it Easier: Lower to a point where your thighs are slightly above parallel.
Make it Harder: Lower your thighs past parallel or add a weight or bands.
This stretch helps to relax the muscles of the quadriceps in the front of the legs, which tend to be tight and overactive.
To begin, lie on your right side. With your knees stacked, bend your left knee and bring your ankle back towards your glute and hold it in place, using a towel or just grabbing your ankle with your hand.
Hold this stretch from 30 seconds to a minute.
This stretch from yoga builds endurance in the stabilizing muscles of your knees.
With your feet close together, sit back as if you are moving into a squat, then hold your pose for as long as possible. Return to standing.
Begin with your legs at the top of a lunge position, with your weight in your front heel and your back heel off the floor.
Lower yourself towards the floor. (Think of an elevator.) Until your front thigh is at or close to parallel with the floor.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then change sides.
This resisted take on a simple move will make your hamstrings and hips feel the burn. Which will strengthen those forgotten hamstrings that contribute to knee pain when weak.
Take a medium resistance loop and place it directly below your knees.
Lie on your back with your feet flat. Lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulder blades.
Lower until your hips are within an inch of the floor, then repeat.
This out-of-the-box exercise with make your quads feel the burn and strengthen the muscles around your knee.
Start out seated on your Premium Large Gorilla Mat with your left knee bent and your left foot flat on the floor with your right leg extended out in front of you.
Keeping your right leg straight, lift your leg off the floor a few inches, then lower it slowly. Repeat for repetitions, then change sides.
Make it Easier: Keep your extended leg bent slightly.
This exercise is for those ready to move on to a more advanced way to strengthen their glutes and hamstrings. You will feel the burn at the end of a set of these hamstring curls!
Begin by lying flat on your back with both of your heels placed on top of an exercise ball. Digging your heels into the ball, drag your heels back towards your buttocks until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
Slowly straighten your legs to bring your ball back to the starting position. Repeat.
Make it Easier: Curl the ball half way to 90 degrees.
Make it Harder: Perform curls on one leg at a time.
These exercises will help strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee joints, helping you improve your range of motion, functional movement, and preventing overuse injuries.
Try adding several of these exercises to your weekly workouts to help strengthen – and sculpt – your leg muscles and improve your functional movement. Always remember to choose exercises based on your current fitness level, then work your way up to more challenging modifications.
And hey, don’t forget to workout with your Gorilla Mat. Our Premium Large Yoga Mat is ideal for doing these exercises barefoot, and it provides the thick cushion and comfort you need to make mat work easy on your joints.
Grab the Premium Large Yoga Mat and start feeling your knee pain go away!
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