Many athletes experience sudden weakness in their knees without being able to attribute it to anything in particular. This onset of an achy feeling and weakness can be easily managed with a few additions to your workout regiment. Strengthening the muscles that support the knee should involve some aspect of balance training. By integrating stability into a strength exercise you increase the overall integrity of the joint which involves the ligaments and tendons as well. This can have an immediate positive impact on how the knees feel.
Consider the fact that the low grade pain in the knee is the body’s way of protecting itself from further injury. Once you recognize this, you should make changes immediately to your training program. There are some general causes that you might consider,
1. An imbalance of the quadriceps (‘quad’) – very common in women. There are four parts of the quad. If the inner section is weak and the outer section is strong, it tends to pull the kneecap towards the outer or most lateral part of the leg. Tightness of the quads can also cause this.
2. An imbalance of the quad compared to the hamstrings (‘hams’- the back side of the thigh). Most have much stronger quads than hams, but ideally that are no more than about 25% stronger. When they are significantly stronger, the knee is placed in a weakened state during dynamic movement.
3. Overall lack of knee joint stability, particularly on the outside of the knee or what is referred to as lateral weakness. This is caused by imbalances in the hip or an IT band issue. When it is an IT band issue (a thick band that crosses the hip joint and inserts by the knee cap), it is often inflammation of the distal portion of the iliotibial band (IT band). This type of strengthening is usually more challenging than the first two general causes described above. It requires a more specific dedication of exercises and stretching. However, any lateral movement training that requires balance will be quite beneficial.
Two exercises are given below that are challenging for balance, stability, strengthening and flexibility. They will work the knee joint, the surrounding muscles and even the core. Furthermore they can be done at home. Not illustrated below is the value of training on the various balance tools available – like wobble boards, wobble cushions and bosus. I suggest any of these tools for developing overall joint stability.
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