Have Bad Knees? Runners Should Try These Workouts
If we had a dollar for every time we heard non-runners talk about how bad our favorite activity is for our knees we would be rich. There continue to be more studies that support evidence that running is not bad for the knees. However, that doesn’t mean that people don’t suffer from bad knees. And while overuse is a common cause of runner’s knee and requires some rest, runners should think about trying workout moves to strengthen their knees to prevent injury.
What Is Runner’s Knee
It’s safe to say that all runners should strengthen their knees. Think of the legs and how each joint connects the next part of it, from the hips down to the knees and down to the ankle. If one part of the leg is suffering from an ailment, it can throw the entire leg off when it comes to injury risk and performance.
But strengthening the knees is especially crucial for those who suffer from bad knees. This can be running or non-running related. The term runner’s knee is a broad term used for various different problems associated with this body part. Also called patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is pain that is felt above or below the kneecap, with the pain being the most severe when going up or down the stairs and when running hills.
Common causes of runner’s knee are overuse, bone misalignment, foot issues like fallen arches or overpronation, weak thigh muscles, and direct falls or blows to the kneecap.
Why And How To Workout The Knees
There are countless articles and graphics online that detail different moves to work out just about every muscle group. But chances are you never thought about working out the knees.
Why “work out” the knee? Better yet, how? When we talk about knee workouts we are looking at exercises to strengthen the knee. But these exercises aren’t about just isolating this body part, but rather also strength training the other muscles in proximity to help stabilize the knee. This includes the quads, hips, glutes, and core.
How to work out the knees? Squat, squat and squat some more. Widen the legs, with knee more outward than a standard squat to strength the quad and knees. Also, focus on hamstring exercises which are among the best for building strong knee joints.
Plyometric moves like jump squats are great for working the lower half of the body. This is also one of the best exercise moves to strengthen those weak knees. However, some people experience “jumper’s knee” from polymeric workouts. To avoid this, focus on good form and take 2-3 minute breaks in between sets.
Remember that runners are looking to strengthen their legs to be able to up the power when running. Strengthening the knee and entire leg muscles for that matter only helps to further avoid injury. Just remember to take these rest days so that the muscles can recover, especially those who run longer mileage.
Exercises To Strengthen And Avoid Runner’s Knee
Strengthening the knee means targeting the muscles surrounding and near it. The focus should be on the hamstrings. This means exercises like the Romanian deadlift, which is similar to a traditional deadlift with some key changes. Legs remain straight with only a slight bend at the knee. Lower the bar below the knees but only until the back start to the round. Don’t go lower. There are many variations to this exercise, but just make sure to focus on proper form to avoid injury.
Squats with weights, a barbell back squat, wall squats and jump squats are all good exercises to promote more strength and reduce the risk of runner’s knee.
Also, incorporate lunges of all variations into the workout routine. This includes walking lunges, side-to-side lunges (make sure to sit down low into that squat).
Mountain climbers are another great exercise move for the knee, as well as leg raises and leg presses when at the gym.
Hip strengthening exercises are also key here so focus on side leg lifts, bridges, and planks. Hips are actually a really weak spot for many runners and the root of many ailments including problems with the knees. Focus on loosening the hips up before a run with stretches and strengthen with basic exercises like side steps and single-leg deadlifts. Don’t forget to foam roll the quads and adductors.
Workouts For Strengthening Knees
Runners can do a few exercises as mentioned above each day or create a full workout out of the movements.
Those looking for a full workout to focus on the lower body should aim for about 45 minutes. Start with a 5 minute warm up like a light jog. Then think about the workout as done in rounds. In between each round, take a rest and drink some water. Choose three exercises for each round. For example, squats, lunges, and calf raise. Do 8 (to 12) reps of squats, followed by 8 reps of lunges and 8 reps of calf raises. Break and then proceed to a new round with three new moves. Repeat until reaching that 45-minute mark. Cool down by stretching and foam rolling.
Sumo dumbbell squat
Standing dumbbell calf raises
Floor leg extensions
Other exercises to add:
- Pile squat calf raise
- Wall Sit
- Single leg bridge
- Single leg deadlift
Runners don’t need a gym or equipment (besides dumbbells for weighted squats or a bar for deadlifts) in order to strengthen the lower half of the body. Do the exercises mentioned regularly (two to three times) a week to see and feel results.
- Here’s More Evidence That Running Doesn’t Ruin Your Knees, Running Website, Feb 06, 2017 ,
- How to Treat and Prevent Runner's Knee, Health Website, ,
- Runner’s Knee: What You Need to Know, Health Website, ,
- Is Plyometric Training Causing Knee Injuries?, Blog, ,
- The Definitive Guide to the Romanian Deadlift (and the Best Variations!), Fitness Blog, ,