Knee pain — the bane of all who exercise, and even some who don’t. Whether your knees scream to you because of too many jump squats, or just because you’re grossly overweight, it’s no reason to hang up the gloves.
A staggering percentage of the adult population is assaulted by knee pain daily. The causes of the ailment are innumerable. However, for every problem lies a solution. Let’s quickly gloss over some common contributors to knee pain:
- Overuse (most commonly exercise related)
- Lack of balance
- Imbalance of muscular strength (i.e. muscles surrounding the joint)
- Muscular tightness
- Being obscenely overweight
Granted, these aren’t all of the suspects in the case of knee disorders, but these are the most manageable. Overuse is the epitome of self-explanatory, so let’s start with the issue of balance.
Training for Balance
When one is dealing with such an overwhelming amount of moving parts in one physical structure, balance is key to avoid undue torque. Torque may sound cool, however, those violent bending and twisting motions (especially in the wrong plane of movement) can be devastating to the knee.
A great exercise for fostering stability around the knee joint is the Step Up.
Due to the fact the step up is a unilateral movement, a large amount of stabilizing muscles come into play. Compared to the squat, step ups are a much more delicate and less weight-intensive exercise; therefore, knocking out a few sets after the heavy lifting is out of the way would be a smart move.
The other kind of balance. Yes, the balance between opposing muscle groups, not to be confused with the ability to not fall over. A gross amount of sports injuries is caused by a muscular imbalance — most commonly, quads and hamstrings. For example, when a sprinter takes off and immediately shreds his hamstring. This would spring from the issue of his quads being much stronger than his hamstrings. These muscles are used to balance each other out.
In light of this foreboding notion, keep a watchful eye on equally training the moving parts that surround your knee. Quads, Hamstrings, adductors and abductors, etc…
Our recommendation — Dynamic movements, or agility drills (after a thorough warm-up of course).
More tips on the next page…
You’re Probably Not Stretching Enough, or Even Correctly
With gym rats, this is like beating a dead horse, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say it again (for your safety). Stretching is important.
As a general rule, dynamic stretches (arm circles, high knees, jumping jacks), anything involving movement should be done before a workout routine. Static stretching, as in reaching and holding would be smart to cool down with.
Scientifically, a static stretch must be held for a minimum of seven seconds. Before that time, the fibers are still fighting to get back to whatever they were up to. However, the longer the stretch is held, the more relaxation you’ll get out of the muscle. We know it’s time-consuming and you don’t get a pump from it, but you’ll benefit from a good 20-30 second hold.
In the same wheelhouse as stretching lies the other deceased horse we’re going to hit: water. Manage these two important factors in tandem and you’ll greatly distance yourself from any kind of injury. Keeping those muscles agile and hydrated never hurt anyone, and it’s free. Save some money on the joint juice with stretching and hydrating.
Not Being A Fat Bastard
Take a minute to look in the mirror or step on a scale and determine if that may be the reason your knees dislike you. Of course, being sloppy and overweight holds far more detriment to one’s health than knee pain, but why not kill a couple birds with one stone and lose some pounds (or kilos if that’s where you’re from).
The extra mass hanging on you will have a chronic effect on that important joint, leaving you to deal with the effects of slow developing and possible acute injuries. Bonus fact: the more body fat one has, the higher their amount of total estrogen will be. Sad story.
Bringing It All Together
Team huddle, let’s go over the checklist:
Keep the balance (agility, stability, and an equal amount of strength in opposing muscle groups).
Keep it loose (stretch more than you think is necessary).
Finally, lose some weight, or if you’re already at a low body fat – keep up the good work.
Your knees don’t have to be the enemy. Take care of them and they’ll continue to help you make gains.
See the video on the next page to help diagnose your knee pain…