Crack. Pop. UGH.
The sounds that haunt you as you drag yourself off the floor from foam rolling. What the heck is going on with your knees?!
Good news, all those noises are normal, but any pain is not. As runners we often hear that pounding the pavement is bad for our knees, which I’ve totally debunked…that doesn’t mean you get to ignore knee strengthening exercises!
Don’t get tricked in to thinking that running must be hard on your knees!!
And if you have had a knee injury, checkout this post on returning to running after knee surgery it will give you both hope and key steps!!
How to Strengthen the Knees?
In running, there are a few important things to know about our knees:
- Your body will adapt to the change in stress of going from not running to running. So there could be some initial aches.
- You need to be in the right shoes with the right alignment to prevent knee pain.
- You need to practice good running form (no heel striking!!)
- You need strong hips, core and glute muscles to keep your knees tracking appropriately (not falling in or being pulled by weak muscles)
What you might notice from the above notes is that knee strength isn’t so much about doing something with your knees, as it is creating a solid structure of support around your knees and then moving in a way that doesn’t destroy them!Don't worry about the snap, crackle, pop of your knees, but use these moves to keep them strong! #runchat Click To Tweet
What if You Have Knee Pain?
If you’re having some aches then I’d say move right along to doing the exercises below, along with the one’s I mention in my knee pain prevention guide.
But if you are having true PAIN: sharp, shooting, changing your stride. Then do not pass go, do not try to go for just one more run, do not try to tough it out.
- Go to a sports medicine Dr. They’ll do X-rays or an MRI and will look at your movement to see what might be the cause
- If it’s not yet that intense I still can’t say enough about going to a Physical Therapist who can review your movement patters and make suggestions that will often resolve issues.
- IT Band issues are an extremely common cause of knee pain in runners!! That can be fixed easily!
5 Knee Strengthening Exercises
There are a ton of incredible knee strengthening exercises for runners, but sometimes I feel like we don’t do the one’s that we have seen on repeat because we think for some odd reason they’re simply too basic to work.
While that is in fact not the case at all, I still wanted to give you some new and different ideas.
One of the most interesting things about our bodies is that we need to work muscles from a lot of different angles and the weakness which needs to be corrected for one person, might not be the same for you.
First I’ll describe each move and then you’ll find a full video demonstration so you can see them in action to ensure you’re using the correct form. If you aren’t doing it right, it isn’t going to benefit you!
1. Banded Squat
Loop a band around your knees and then lower in to a squat while pushing out to keep your knees in line with your toes. Great move to do in front of a mirror as you may not realize how wild your knees are going while squatting.
2. Banded March
Loop the band around a solid post or knot and put in a door. Put your left leg through the band, anchor just above the back of your knee and then bend and press down your left leg. Tighten your core and raise your right knee to hip height at the same time.
3. Single Leg Hold
Keeping your leg in the same loop, turn so that band is on the inside of the knee and with enough tension to pull the leg towards the band resist and hold while raising the other leg. Advanced do the hold while moving your free leg and arms in a running motion.
4. Hip Rotation
In a reverse table top position, rotate your left leg out to the side so that your knee is near the ground and your heel is pointing to the sky. Return to starting and rotate the left leg inward towards your other leg. Repeat on right side.
5. 3-Way Calf Stretch
Hit all sides of your calf by changing the leverage in your stretch. Placing the back foot down with heel on the floor and toes pointed forward the first stretch will have the front leg bent and also pointing forward in a line. Keep the back foot down and move your front leg across the body, finally move the front leg out to the side.
Watch the video for a demo of each move and some additional notes on things like your hips!
Beyond these movements, we know that yoga can help lubricate the joints and a consistent strength training program is going to hit on all those weak areas that I mentioned as well!
Don’t back away from running because your knees feel funky. Instead, find the cause and get to work fixing it!
Have you tried all of the moves I showed you?
Need More? Read this full knee pain guide >>
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