Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Exercises for Healthy Knees


Save your knees

Whether you're a gym rat (like myself) or you simply have a rigorous walking routine, your knees take a pounding day to day. What's more, women are more likely to experience knee pain than men. Blame it on our wider hips—that anatomical fact leads to more stress. Plus, it has been reported that female hormones, such as estrogen, seem to weaken the ligaments around the knees. With the odds stacked against us, it's crucial that we take the steps necessary to injury-proof one of the most important parts of our bodies.  Add a few of these key exercises to your next workout routine to help keep your knees ready for action.

Single-leg hamstring curl

Using your right hand for support (hold the back of a chair, the wall, or even a tree trunk) shift your weight to your right leg. Slowly bend and lift your left knee, engaging your hamstring to bring your lower leg high behind you (as shown); lower your foot. Do 20 reps and then switch legs. 

Calf stretch

Stand at arm's length away from a wall. Place your right foot behind your left foot. With your hands against the wall for support, slowly bend your left knee forward, keeping your right knee straight, your right heel on the floor, and your left knee above your left foot. Hold for about 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Side-lying hip lift and leg lift

Lie on your left side, hips and feet stacked. Place your left forearm on the floor for support and prop your upper body up (A). Lift your hips off the floor into a side plank (B). Lower down to the start, then raise your right leg about 3 feet (C). Return the to start. Do 30 reps (or if you can't get to 30, as many as you can) and then switch sides. 

Temple pose

Stand with your feet at least 4 feet apart, toes turned out to 45 degrees. Bring your palms together at heart level, lifting your chest and dropping your shoulders. Inhale, then begin to bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as you can get to that). Be sure your knees stay over your feet (don't let them cave in toward each other!), and keep your back as straight as possible without arching it. Draw your belly in and up, and drop your tailbone down. Hold for five to 15 breaths; release and return to standing. Repeat up to three times.

Partial squats

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead. Slowly squat until you’re at about a 45-degree angle, bending at the knees but making sure the knees do not extend forward beyond the toes. To help keep your balance, try the partial squat while leaning your back against a wall (partial wall squat).

Leg raises

Lie face up with your left knee bent, right leg straight, arms by your sides with palms on the floor. Exhaling, lift your right leg toward your chest as comfortably as possible while contracting the front of your thigh; keep your abs tight and hands on the floor. Immediately and slowly lower your leg back to the start; switch legs and repeat. Do 10-12 reps per side.

Step ups

Step up onto a low bench or stair with your right foot, then bring up your left foot. Step back down, right foot first. Do 20 reps; then repeat, starting with your left foot. Too easy? Make the move more challenging by holding a dumbbell at your shoulder with your right arm when stepping with your left leg, and your left arm when stepping with your right leg.


Lie with your knees bent, your arms at your sides, palms down. Tighten your glutes and core; raise your hips to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees (A). Bend your right leg toward your chest (B); straighten your leg and point foot (C); bend your leg and return to start. Repeat, alternating sides, for 1 minute.

Quadriceps set

Lie or sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight out in front of you and a towel roll under your right knee. Push your knee down into the towel while you tighten your thigh. Hold for five seconds, then release. Do three sets of 10 reps, then switch legs.

Reclined butterfly

Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together and your knees bent and dropping toward the floor. Place your arms, palms up, by your sides, keeping your shoulders back and your chest open. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose while slowly counting to four, then exhale while counting back down to one. Continue for 10 minutes, or as long as it takes you to feel fully relaxed.