Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hip strengthening exercises to avoid knee pain

Over the past few weeks, and at the direction of PT, I have been doing some simple strengthening exercises that have made a notable difference in my running. I have not had any further lateral knee pain after a run and I have been on several runs of up to four miles at a time. The specific exercises I have been doing are:

  1. Straight leg raises
  2. Side leg raises
  3. One leg squats (or heel taps)
  4. Front bends

First, straight leg raises. Lying on your back, bend one knee leaving your foot flat on the floor. Then keep the other leg straight and raise 12-18 inches off the ground. In the video, the person has their leg turned outward, which shifts the focus to one specific muscle in your quads (the vastus medialis) but you can do it without the twist to work all your quads. You can add weights (like in the video) to increase the difficulty.

Second, side leg raises are done lying on your side, in basically the same leg position with your knee bent and your heel just under your bottom. Then raise the opposite leg up, which should be exclusively using your hip abductors (the muscles on the outside of your hip). This guy is not bending his lower leg and using a band, instead of weights, to increase the resistance.

One leg squats, as noted in this video are good for strengthening, but also for improving balance. The variant of these that I did was on a step about 12-18 inches off the ground. This could be a single-step stool, or even a stair in your house. The other name, heel taps, comes from the idea that you should do these just briefly tapping your heel on the ground and then pushing up with your squatting leg. What I found very effective was the bench press benches at my gym. They have a small step at the back for a spotter and since the bench is quite heavy, it will not move with me supporting my weight on the back end of it. I can recall first trying these and watching my knee wobble all over the place but now I can do them without holding onto anything for balance and with easy control of my knee.

Last of the four I call front bends, but I gather that there are a number of names for the exercise. First, get a dumbbell, about 5-15 lbs. Hold that in front of you in one hand. Bend forward, allowing the weight in your hand to go straight down. Simultaneously, lift the leg opposite the hand with the weight, while keeping your leg straight.

Screenshot from user jasoncscs

So, these worked quite well for me, and I am excited to be out there running more. Of course, if your knee hurts, I recommend seeking professional help!

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