Knees are a big deal in Colorado. They’re a key joint when it comes to our favorite activities, from hiking, trail running and skiing to ultimate, soccer, lacrosse and any activity that involves quick stops and changes of direction. Unfortunately, knee injuries are far too common. And did you know women are at greater risk than men?
In our Holiday 2017 print issue, we talked with some Colorado Springs physical therapists about the problem—and highlighted some recommended exercises to strengthen those knees and prevent injury. Here are three more ways to bolster your knees and safeguard your active Colorado lifestyle.
“Most runners are strong in their quads, hamstrings and gastrocs [calves], but weak or inhibited with the muscles that control rotation,” says Dr. Jeremy Snyder, physical therapist and owner of Rocky Mountain Rehabilitation. “The side plank is a classic exercise to target this weakness in the hips and core.”
Lay on one elbow with your knees flexed, and thighs in line with your body (pictured above). Brace your core, and press up with the bottom hip so your legs align with your body. Keep your elbow directly under your shoulder, with your shoulders and hips stacked—there should be no rotation in your upper or lower body. Hold 30 to 60 seconds while maintaining even breathing and gently squeezing your glutes. Repeat on each side. For a more advanced exercise, straighten your legs and push through the bottom foot.
Lateral Wall Push
Snyder describes the lateral wall push as a less common variation of a plank that is more sport specific “and way harder than it looks!”
Stand on one leg with your knee and hip pressing sideways into a wall. Keep your standing leg under your outside hip and your hips level. Press your inside knee and hip into the wall. Hold 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side. For a more advanced and challenging exercise, press into an exercise ball placed at hip level, as pictured.
Cook Hip Lift
Lay on your back with one leg flexed toward your ribs. If you have a tennis ball or water bottle, try to hold it between your lower ribs and leg. Keeping the ball in place, squeeze your glutes and extend your hip upward. Don’t overlift; and if you feel discomfort in your lower back, lower to make the bridge motion smaller. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Alternate and do 3 to 5 lifts on each side.
You should feel this exercise in your downside glutes and upside hip flexors. To make this exercise easier, hold the top leg with your arms.