Not All Exercises are Good for Your Knee
One thing that has become very popular among citizens ion the modern era is the notion of incorporating exercise into one’s schedule, whether in the form of exercising at home or setting up a membership at a gym and following a workout schedule regularly. The greater awareness of the need to stay in shape is something many people are thankful for, and it is indeed something that has led to wise action — better diets, more responsible lifestyles — and longer life spans in general.
However, not every workout is right for you — this is something that people tend to take a while to realize, especially if they are in the pursuit of a particular exercise goal. Some workout can do more harm than good if not well-chosen and well-thought out.
The Knee, One of the Most Complex Joints of the Body
The knee, for example, is a surprisingly complex joint that is the source of much. More damage to the knee gets done than one might think — and this complicated system of bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments is crucial to getting around. Almost 15 million Americans see a doctor for knee pain annually. 18% of men ages 60 and above are revealed in recent studies to suffer knee joint pain, but this is far from a seniors-only malady — some 15% to 20% of men of all ages are sufferers of knee joint pain. Women have it as a slightly more common ailment, with some 20% of women suffering from it. And yes, that number likely includes people who are genetically predisposed to it as well as people who might acquire a problem with that very often-used joint through use — or improper treatment during, say, exercise.
What Exercises are NOT Good for You?
Here are some exercises that should be avoided in order to keep your knees healthy. If you do them currently, they might be doing you more harm than good. They can easily be replaced with other exercises.
- Full-arc knee extensions – While removing these from your workout may somewhat counterintuitive, you’re actually causing more damage to your knees in the process of doing them.
- Partial or half squats – These ostensibly target the muscles in your thigh and rear, but if done improperly you’ll end up putting too much weight on your knees. Ankles are also susceptible to damage.
- Lunges – Like deep squats, lunges are geared toward working out your thigh muscles. However, when you bend your knee at an acute angle — with the knee going forward past your foot — so much weight gets put on the knee. Don’t feel bad about “doing squats wrong” — very few people without formal instruction are likely to realize there’s anything wrong with the positioning of the knee. As with most exercises, proper spotting can help.
- Rebound box jumps – These are ordinarily designed to help build explosive performance, but rebound jumps don’t actually accomplish this. A helpful alternative would be to use your arms to help your movement — these are commonly overlooked factors in generating speed and fluid movement.
- Jumping jacks – These age-old exercises don’t actually do anything, it turns out, and they’re little more than filler for cardio classes. While there are arguably some cardio benefits to them, they’re not as efficient for it as other exercises — and they might cause more damage in the long run.
What Exercises are Good for You?
Fortunately, all it really takes is some smart exercising to avoid causing long-term joint damage, and potentially even strengthen the crucial joint. The last suggestion can even allow you to work your body out and improve your cardio without putting your knee at risk of impact. [See also 7 Knee Exercises for Flexibility and Strengthening]
- Calf stretches – Standing at arm’s length from a wall, place your palms against the wall for support. Place right foot behind the left, and slowly bend your left knee. Keep your right knee straight, your right heel on the floor, and your left knee above your left foot (the last one avoids the common over extension problem). Hold for 30 seconds or so, and then switch legs.
- Quadriceps sets – Sit on the floor and extend your right leg straight out in front of you, with a rolled towel under your right knee. Tighten your knee and push your knee down into the towel. Hold this for five seconds and then release. Three 10-rep sets are recommended per leg.
- Straight leg raises – Lie down on your back, bend your left leg and extend your right leg flat on the ground. Lift the right leg until the knees meet, then slowly lower it. Three 10-set reps per leg.
- Hamstring stretch – One way to take better care of our knees is to take care of the muscles around them, which all contribute to the movement of the knees themselves (and vice versa). Hamstring stretches do this. You’ll need a strap. Lie on your back with both legs straight, and place the long strap around the ball of your right foot. Use the strap to lift the leg (don’t lock your knee straight) until you feel the muscle behind your knee and thigh stretch. Hold this for 30 seconds, and hold for 30 seconds. Three reps total for each leg.
- Swimming – This is a good replacement for most exercises actually, as it gives various muscle groups a good workout and helps your cardio as well. Remember not to tense your knees — this may take some guidance and practice — as you swim. Note that this also means you’ll need to avoid such moves as pushing off the wall for a lap, and techniques like the frog kick that require tensing your knees.
Knee Joint Pain in conclusion…
Even some of the potentially threatening exercises, if done with proper form, can accomplish what we want them to without causing damage to the knee. The recommended exercises above work out the knee in more even, less impactful ways, allowing you to tone the muscles properly without risking damage like you ordinarily would with other exercises. A final suggestion you might not have expected? Ballroom dancing — a good cardio workout that requires a partner and even possibly an instructor. By requiring you to stretch and warm up for it, this can give your muscles a good workout without leaving you at risk of unspotted bad form.