For many athletes, the summer is a perfect time to work on maintaining strength, conditioning, and agility. Knee, leg, and other lower body injuries are very common in sports. One of the best and most proven ways to minimize the risk of a traumatic knee injury from happening is to strengthen the muscles that support the tendons and ligaments of the knee. When the muscles around the knee are strong and stable, they act as a protective barrier against rotational forces.
Lily Feldman, a strength and conditioning specialist with UPMC Sports Medicine, demonstrates five easy exercises that will help keep your lower body strong and resistant to injury.
These first three exercises require you to imagine a clock. Stand directly in the middle, with your legs acting as the clock hands. For each exercise, do 3 repetitions (10 on each leg) using 8 to 20 pound dumbbells.
12:00 to 6:00 – Forward to Backward Lunge
- With your right leg, step forward to12:00, and then step backward to 6:00. Keep your left foot stationary at the center of the clock.
- Try to make this a continuous motion without touching your right foot to the ground.
- Complete ten on your right and repeat the forward/backward lunge with your left leg.
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3:00 to 9:00 – Sideways to Crossover Lunge
- With your right leg, lunge sideways to 3:00, keeping the left leg perfectly straight.
- Push your butt back like you are sitting on a chair. With your right leg, cross over your left leg to 9:00 and squat down.
- Repeat the lunge sequence with your right leg as the center of the clock and your left leg doing the work. Your left leg will lunge to 9:00 and then crossover to 3:00.
5:00 to 12:00 and 7:00 to 12:00 – Rotate Backward to Rotate in Front
- With your right leg, lunge backwards so your left leg is on the center of the clock and the right leg is at 5:00. The left leg remains straight with the toes forward.
- Then, bring the right leg around and place your foot at 12:00. The outside of your right foot on 12:00 should be parallel to the space in front of you.
- Repeat this lunge sequence with the left leg, now lunging backwards to 7:00.
These two final exercises focus on your knee, hips, and hamstring.
For each exercise, do 3 repetitions (10 on each leg) using 10 to 20 pound dumbbells.
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Single Leg Romanian Dead Lift
- You will balance on your right leg with a slight bend in the knee. Hinge at your hips and lower your torso until it is parallel to the ground.
- Keep your back extremely flat and don’t allow your hip to externally rotate. Your right leg should kick back directly behind you.
- Try to stay balanced without touching the ground between repetitions. You should feel these in your hamstring.
- Complete ten on your right leg and then switch to your left.
- Stand with your legs staggered one in front of the other. Keep your chest tall and bend both knees simultaneously to lower towards the ground.
- If your front knee goes over your front toe as you lower to the ground, widen your stance. Lower as slowly as possible until your back knee is a few inches from the ground and your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Rise back up slowly and keep your chest tall.
- Repeat ten times with the right leg in front and then switch to the left.
Commit yourself to doing this routine three times a week to help stabilize your knee joint. Work hard now and feel more confident in your body’s ability to resist injuries later.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.