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.
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.
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
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).
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 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.
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.
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.