I say bad news because I can’t think of two other sports that could be worse on my knees. Tennis with all of the lateral movement. Running with all of the pounding. Maybe speed skating and professional jump roping would be a worse combination. But tennis and running are pretty bad.
And since I seem to be prone to knee problems and have noticed some twinges and aches with my half marathon training, I’ve started doing some knee strengthening exercises. Knee strengthening exercises don’t actually work the knee joint itself. Rather, they work the muscles in your legs and surrounding the knees. These exercises focus on strengthening the muscles around the knees so they can take the wear and tear of sports and working out. The two main groups of leg muscles that help support the knees are the hamstrings (in the back of the upper legs) and the quadriceps (in the front of the upper legs). The hamstrings help in bending the knees and the quadriceps help with straightening and moving the knees.
So here are a few knee exercises I’m trying out:
- Straight Leg Lift – Lie on your back with one leg bent and the other straight. Tighten the thigh muscles in your straight leg and slowly lift it until it is about a foot off the floor. Hold the lift for 3 to 5 seconds. Slowly lower your leg to the floor. Repeat 3 to 5 times and then switch legs.
- Hamstring Curl – Hold on to the back of a chair for balance. Plant your weight onto your supporting leg, keeping your knee soft and unlocked. Lift your other foot, bending your knee and bringing your heel up toward your buttocks. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat 3 to 5 times and then switch legs.
- Wall Squat – Stand with your head, back, and hips against a wall. Position your feet about 2 feet out from the wall, hip-width apart. Slowly slide your back down the wall until you are almost in a sitting position, keeping your knees and hips level. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then slowly slide up. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
You can increase the difficulty of the Straight Leg Lift and the Hamstring Curl by adding ankle weights. You can get more out of the Wall Squat by holding the position for longer periods and increasing your reps.
Strong, healthy knees are important in all sports. But they’re essential for playing great tennis and for running long distances. Don’t be like me and wait until you have knee issues to take up these exercises. Strengthen your knees now and avoid problems later.