Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Knee Pain

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Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Knee Pain

straight leg lift
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I talk to a lot of beginner runners who are experiencing knee pain and want to know how they can strengthen their knees. Many knee issues are a result of muscle weakness or imbalance, so the key with preventing knee pain is to strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize the knee.

The following basic exercises can be done two or three times a week to improve your leg muscle strength and create muscle balance. Do them after an easy run (or other cardio exercise) when your muscles are warmed up.

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Straight-leg raises

straight leg lift
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This exercise will strengthen your quadriceps muscles (thighs) to help support your knees. Here’s how to do a straight-leg lift:

1. Lie on your back with your arms at your side, right leg straight, left leg bent, and left foot flat on the floor.

2. Contract your right quad and slowly raise your right leg to the height of your left knee.

3. Keeping your right thigh contracted, slowly lower your right leg back to the starting position.  Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side.

4. When that becomes too easy, hold in the up position for a count of 5.

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Wall sits

wall sit exercise
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Wall sits are an easy way help strengthen your hamstrings, quads, glutes and abs in one shot. Here’s what to do:

1. Stand about two feet in front of a wall and lean your back against it.

2. Slowly bend your knees and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor, keeping your abs contracted for 30 seconds.

3. As you build strength, increase the amount of time you hold the position.

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Step-ups

Step up exercise
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Step-ups will work your quads, hips, and glutes. Here's how to do them:

1. Stand facing a sturdy bench.

2. Start by stepping up onto the bench with your right foot .

3. Next, drive your left leg up to a 90-degree angle (don't rest your left foot on the bench).

4. Lower your left foot down to the ground. Your right foot should stay on the bench during the entire move. That's one rep.

5. Repeat 15 reps on each leg.

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Walking Lunges

walkinglunges.jpg
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Walking lunges are the same as basic standing forward lunges, except that you alternate legs and you keep walking (moving) forward. Here's what to do:

1. Start by standing with Your feet should be hip to shoulder width apart. Your arms should be at your sides.

2. Take a big step forward with your right leg, keeping your upper body as straight as possible.

3. Lunge until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is close to the floor.

4. Both knees should be bent at approximately 90 degrees. Make sure your front knee doesn't go past your toes.

5. Keep your eyes looking straight ahead, and don't look down.

6. Bring up your back leg and step forward, then repeat moves from step 2, alternating legs.

7. Do 10 lunges out, then turn around and do 10 back to where you started. 

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Calf raises

heel raise exercise
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Calf raises build calf strength and improves ankle stability, which is important to proper knee alignment.  Here’s what to do:

1. While standing, lift both of your heels off the ground so that you’re on the balls of your feet.

2. Slowly lower your heels to the starting position.

3. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

4. When that becomes too easy, try doing the exercise one leg at a time. An added bonus is that you'll also work on your balance. You can also hold light dumbbells as you do the exercise to increase the difficulty and calorie burn.

More Exercises:

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