5 Tips to Save your Knees in the Gym
Whether you have an existing knee injury or dread the possibility of it, there are certain guidelines that can help protect your knees or prevent injury from occurring during exercise. Knee pain is often caused by an acute injury or repetitive motions that stress the knee over time, particularly as we age. Here are five basic tips for your exercise plan to avoid knee pain and injuries:
1. Warm up
This is probably the most neglected part of physical training. You simply cannot jump into heavy weights without doing some warm-up sets first or cycling on an exercise bike for at least 10 to 15 minutes. When lifting weights, remember to always warm up using a lighter weight.
We recommend performing one or two warm-up sets of leg extensions before starting any leg exercise. Keep the weight fairly light and complete 15 to 20 controlled repetitions. This gets the blood flowing in and around the knees, while at the same time, warms up your quad muscles.
Additionally, we recommend you perform a warm-up set of leg presses with a fairly light weight before starting other leg exercises. Again, try to complete 15 to 20 slow, controlled reps.
When performing a leg press or leg extension movement like squats or seated leg press, do not fully lock out your knees. Locking your knee joint transfers all of the weight from the muscle to the joint. This results in unnecessary stress on the knee that can lead to a serious injury. By not fully locking your knees, you will keep the tension on the muscle and experience a more intense set at your current weight.
If you are unable to complete your set without locking your knees, the weight is too heavy and must be lowered. Remember, form and function supersedes weight.
3. Squat with proper form
Technique is essential when it comes to squats and too many people squat on the balls of their feet instead of their heels.
It’s important to remember to not let your knees drop forward as you descend. Stick your buttocks out and keep your back arched (do not round) as you descend. When you ascend, you should be pushing off the heel of your foot and not your toes. If you have trouble doing this, try squatting without any shoes on. Many athletic shoes have a very thick sole that forces your body forward and onto your toes when squatting.
4. Weight Management
“If the bar isn’t bending you’re just pretending.” This sentiment is not at all true and is believed by too many people.
Ensure that you are able to complete the full range of motion for any leg exercise you are performing. If you can’t, the weight you’re using is too heavy. Remember, improper form does not fully stimulate the muscles.
5. The Long Run
You may want to avoid exercises like running. The impact of your feet hitting the pavement or treadmill may irritate an existing knee injury or aid in the development of one. An elliptical or stationary bike may be easier on your knees. If you utilise an elliptical bike, lower the incline/height to lessen the stress on your knees. This will give you the workout you desire without putting excess pressure on your knees.
If you follow the tips mentioned above, you should be able to train your legs at an intense but manageable level and prevent any future problems. If you have an existing knee injury, these tips may help alleviate the pain and allow you to strengthen the muscles and continue training.
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