You must have come across the phrase ‘your brain is in your knees’ when referring to someone’s low level of intelligence. Well, that’s just a saying and it is because, biologically, it’s not exactly possible for your brains to be placed in your knees. However, what you’ll really find in your knees is all the strength you need to walk, stand, and run.
Now, it is highly likely that over time because of certain factors like your sedentary lifestyle or weight getting out of control, your knees start to lose their strength. Thus, they need to be worked on in order to make sure that you can keep moving about without any issues.
If you’re still not convinced, here are all the reasons you need to start performing knee-strengthening exercises daily, cited by Dr. Kruti Khemani, physiotherapist and founder, Continuum Sports Physiotherapy and Rehab Centre, Mumbai:
Your knees have a lot to do: The knee is a weight-bearing joint with an enormous amount of body weight borne by it. For instance, when we walk, the knee bears 1.5 times our body weight. That increases 3 to 4 times when we climb stairs and up to 8 times when we squat! So, you can imagine how much wear and tear the knees will go through if we do not keep them well taken care of.
Our lifestyle scenario is already goofed up: If a woman is overweight, leads a sedentary lifestyle, or is fairly active throughout the day but has a genetic history of weak bones, and has nutritional deficiencies, her knees are highly likely to get weak and make her life difficult.
‘Womanhood’ makes it worse: There is evidence to suggest higher incidence of knee pain and degeneration in women as compared to men. This is mainly due to the anatomical differences such as women having a larger pelvis than men and their knees having to bear the weight of a larger lower body. This causes more stress and instability in the knee.
Our ligaments are to be blamed as well: Women’s ligaments also tend to be laxer compared to men’s and that means women are more prone to ligament damage. Plus, women also have smaller and weaker leg muscles compared to men and a mild imbalance between the front (quadriceps) and back (hamstrings) of muscles of the thigh. This can put more strain on the knees.
Ladies, if these reasons have got you all worried, just relax and start including these knee-strengthening exercises recommended by Dr. Khemani in your workout regime:
1. Static quads
Purpose: This exercise can strengthen the quadriceps, a.k.a., quad muscles present in the thigh area, without much knee movement while helping you improve your muscle control as well.
How to perform: Lie flat on your back or simply sit up with your leg horizontally stretched out on a flat surface. Place a rolled-up towel (approximately 10cm diameter) under the knee. Pull your toes towards yourself and clench your thigh muscles. Slowly, lift your foot up and off the bed till your knee is straight, resting on the towel. Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly, lower the leg back to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions daily.
2. Straight leg raises at 3 angles
Purpose: Again, it’ll strengthen the quad muscles without straining the knee. However, this exercise isn’t recommended for those with a history of back problems.
How to perform: Lie flat on your back. Keep one leg straight and the other one bent at the knee. Now, pull your toes towards yourself and tighten/clench the muscle on the front side of the thigh while locking your knee straight. Lift your foot about 6 inches off the bed and hold for 3-5 secs before you slowly get your leg back to its original position. Ensure that your knee stays straight the whole time. 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions ensure the best results.
3. Knee extensions:
Purpose: This exercise increases knee mobility, avoids knee stiffness and is particularly beneficial for those who need to keep sitting for long periods of time.
How to perform: Sit on a firm chair with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Lift your feet up and straighten your knees as much as possible. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then slowly, lower your legs back down. 3 sets of 5-20 repetitions are going to be really advantageous for you.
4. Clams for gluteus medius
Purpose: This exercise can strengthen the glutes that support the knee and prevent excess weight from burdening the inner side of the knee. It can also be a lifesaver for anyone with an existing knee pain issue.
How to perform: Lie on your side with your hip and knees bent approximately at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up as high as you can, without tilting your pelvis. Hold for 3 seconds and then come back to starting position before you go on to complete 2 sets of 10-25 repetitions. Doing this every day can be really effective.
5. Heel raises
Purpose: Heel raises can strengthen the calf muscles to help support the knee while walking and running.
How to perform: Stand with your feet slightly apart with your weight equally distributed on both the legs and holding onto something solid like a wall or a chair for balance. Raise your heel upwards, as high as possible, to rise on your toes. Keep your body upright while you do this and don’t bend forward. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and bring your heels back down. 2 sets of 10-30 repetitions every day can give your knees all the strength they need while toning up your calves too!
P.S. Keep these precautions in mind:
While these exercises recommended by Dr. Kruti Khemani can add a great deal of strength to your knees and enhance your overall fitness, any carelessness while performing them can actually backfire. Hence, she suggests taking the following precautions while you’re at it:
If performed with a little caution, these knee-strengthening exercises can make sure you stay free of pain and be able to move around at your own will without anything strain holding you back.