The knee joint is one of the most used and vulnerable joints in our body. It is connected to our thigh and shin bone by ligaments alone. The muscles in the thigh, including the quadriceps, adductors, hamstrings, and abductors all play a part in keeping a balanced tension on the ligaments connected to the knee joint. When one muscles group is weaker or tighter than the rest, it causes imbalance and leaves the knee joint vulnerable to injury and pain. Low impact exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint will help not only with rehabilitation but also with prevention of knee injury and pain. Here are 4 Pilates-based exercises that can be done to ease knee pain.
Clams– This strengthens the outer thigh muscle. Lie down on your side with your legs bent and stacked on top of one another. Lift the heels off the ground to get a fuller range of motion with the top leg. Keep the bottom leg stable as you squeeze your glutes and upper thigh to open the top leg up like a clamshell. Try to get the knee to point towards the sky without letting your top hip fall back. Hips should be stacked. Do 10-20 on each side.
Inner Thigh Circles– One of the most common causes of knee pain I see as a Pilates instructor is a weak inner thigh. Our outer thigh tends to get overworked from everyday movements like walking and running, leaving the inner thighs weaker. These inner thigh circles are guaranteed to help balance that out. Prop yourself up onto your side with your forearm on the ground. Make sure the shoulder is directly over the elbow. Bend the top leg so that your foot is on the ground and your knee is pointed upwards. Do your best to keep your top hip in line with the bottom hip by squeezing your glutes and turning out the top thigh. Keep the bottom leg straight and flexed. Without changing the shape of your torso, lift the bottom leg as high as you can to meet the top knee. Your abs and inner thigh of the bottom leg should be doing all the work. Be careful not to sink into your supporting shoulder blade. Stay lifted and strong in your torso. Once you do a couple leg lifts, hold the bottom leg up, and do 10 circles in each direction. Repeat on the other side.
Straight Leg Raises– Leaning back onto both elbows, keep the chest elevated and abdominals pulled in. Bend one leg and keep one straight. Flex the straight foot, and use your quadriceps and abs to lift the leg up. Squeeze the thigh, lifting the muscles above the kneecap up and hold it for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Do 10 on each leg.
Shoulder Bridge with Ball– This exercise works the hamstrings glutes and inner thighs. If you do not have a small exercise ball, you can use a rolled up towel in between your knees. Lie on your back with your knees bent and ball in between the knees. Heels should be directly underneath your knees. Squeezing the ball, lift your hips off the ground without arching your back. You are lifting by squeezing your butt and back of the legs. Keep pulling your navel to your spine even as you lift your hips up. Do 10 bridges before holding it up there. Once you are in a high bridge, squeeze the ball for 10 pulses using your inner thighs. For an added challenge, you can straighten one leg without changing the shape of your pelvis and continue to pulse your inner thighs 10 more times. Repeat on the other leg.
Our knees get a lot wear and tear every day from walking, running, sitting up and down and even regular gym exercises. Treat your knees to these strengthening and pain-reducing Pilates exercises that can be done at home!
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