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Saving Your Knees: Fit Check (Video)
Taking time to strengthen the muscles around the knee could save you from injury later. Here are five stretches and exercises designed to do just that. By Melissa Romero
Comments () | Published December 2, 2011

Knees are one of the most injury-prone joints in the body, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. In 2003, approximately 19.4 million people saw an orthopedic surgeon for a knee-related injury. The incredibly complex joint is the largest in the body, and it takes a lot of abuse throughout the day.

Personal trainer and instructor Elie Cossa of City Fitness in DC’s Cleveland Park offers some simple stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee and help with balance and stability.

Exercise 1: Roller Stretch
Muscle area: Quads, calves, and hamstrings.
Reps: 30 seconds each muscle group.
Equipment: The Stick, a product popular among runners that’s used to work out kinks in sore muscles. It’s available for about $30 to $40 (price depends on length) at local running stores and Eastern Mountain Sports.

For the Quads
Place one foot on a step or bench so the quadricep is parallel to the floor. Place the Stick on the top of the quadricep and slowly roll it on top of the muscle while applying pressure. Continue rolling for about 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

For the Hamstrings
Remain in the same position and place the Stick on the bottom side of your leg. Pull the Stick upward and roll it from the top of the hamstring to the bottom. Continue rolling for about 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

For the Calves
Remain standing in the same position. Place the Stick at the top of the calf and roll it down while applying pressure. Continue rolling for about 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. This also helps to loosen tight Achilles tendons.

See Also:

How to Run Without Legs

Protecting Your Eyes from Sun Damage

Running Barefoot

Exercise 2: Step Up
Muscle area: Knees.
Reps: One set of six to eight if you’re a beginner; more advanced athletes can increase to one set of 15 to 20, or do three sets of six to eight.

Find a flat surface such as a step or stool that’s about 12 inches high. Plant your right foot on the step and step up, fully extending the knee once you step up. Step down, keeping the right foot planted on the step. Your abdominals and pelvis should be in a straight line. Do one set, then switch legs and repeat.

Exercise 3: Assisted Squat
Muscle area: Quads and knees.
Reps: One set of six to eight if you’re a beginner; more advanced athletes can increase to one set of 15 to 20, or do three sets of six to eight.

Stand with your back to a chair, feet hip width apart. Place your arms across your chest or hands behind your head. Engage your abdominals for support.

Digging into your heels, sit down onto the chair, then stand up. Repeat six to eight times.

As you get more comfortable, you may find you don’t need to completely sit on the chair. Cossa says you can “just barely touch your seat” and stand back up. If the seat’s height makes the squat too easy, use a lower surface.

Exercise 4: Strap Hamstring Stretch
Muscle area: Hamstrings and calves.
Reps: 30 to 60 seconds.

Sit on an elevated surface such as a bench with one leg extended and the other foot planted on the ground. Wrap a long strap or belt around the bottom of the foot of the extended leg. Hold onto the ends of the strap. Sit up tall.

Lean forward from your hips, keeping your chest and shoulders up, and lightly pull the foot toward you until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch legs.

Exercise 5: Hip Flexor Stretch
Muscle area: Hip flexors.
Reps: 30 to 60 seconds.

Lie on a bench or bed. Let one leg hang off the side, bending the other at the knee. Pull the foot of the hanging leg back slightly until you feel a stretch at the top of the hip. Stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.

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Posted at 03:32 PM/ET, 12/02/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs