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3 Workouts For Stronger, Pain-Free Knees

April 28, 2015
Exercises for stronger knees
Chris Philpot

Sore knees are a fact of life for too many people. But the biggest mistake you can make is avoiding exercise. These 3 workouts are designed to strengthen sore knees—keeping you going strong without the pain.

WORKOUT # 1: Stairs & Stretch
EXPERT: Katy Bowman, MS, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, CA
Strengthen the small connective muscles at your knees by standing barefoot atop a BOSU, which is half of an exercise ball. Put one heel on the rounded side, the other leg lifted a few inches. Hold for 3 minutes per leg; do 3 to 5 times a week. ($100 for BOSU Balance Trainer and 4 DVDs;
THE PLAN: Running is not the right kind of cardio for someone with knee problems. Using a stair-climber will put less wear and tear on your joints, and the vertical action will prep your glutes and quads. You’ll get stronger and reduce stress on your knee joints if you target the back of your legs too. You should do the exercises below whenever you strength-train.



The Stepmill( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

This moving staircase—available at some gyms—is easy on joints but still a good cardio workout. Do 15 to 30 minutes 2 or 3 times a week.2. BUTT BUILDER

Butt Builder( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Hinge forward at hips, hands on wall. Lift left leg back without moving hips. Hold for 1 minute. Switch legs. Do 3 to 5 times with each leg. (For more toning moves, try this butt-lifting stair workout.)3. DOUBLE CALF STRETCH

Double Calf Stretch( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Place balls of feet on rolled towel or yoga mat. Bend at hips, lift tailbone, and rest hands on chair or thighs. Hold 1 minute. Repeat after each strength move .WORKOUT #2: Walking Wonder
EXPERT: Suzanne Nottingham, fitness trainer and author of Nordic Walking for Total Fitness
SECRET WEAPON: Walking Poles
Because they engage the core and upper body for pushing off, a regular walk becomes a total-body workout. (Instructor poles by Leki, $150;
THE PLAN: Swapping running for pole walking will give you a heart-pumping cardio workout while protecting your knees. You can also build more joint stability by trading in your machine-based strength-training regimen for the exercises below, which involve more muscles to execute each move.



Nordic Walking( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Walking with poles takes pressure off knees. Train with poles at least 45 minutes 4 times a week, walking at a moderate to brisk pace.2. HAMSTRING CURL

Hamstring Curls( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Lie on back, legs extended, heels atop stability ball. Press into heels and lift hips off floor. Bend knees and roll ball in until it’s under knees. Roll out. Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps 3 times a week.3. WOBBLE LUNGE

Wobble Lunge( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Stand with a cushion, pillow, or pad under right foot, left foot about 3 feet behind you. Bend knees and lower, keeping right knee over heel. Straighten legs. Do 10 lunges, then switch legs and repeat. Do 3 sets on each side 3 times a week. 

WORKOUT #3: Heavy Lifting
EXPERT: Jay Dawes, MS, CSCS, clinical assistant professor of kinesiology at Texas A&M University
SECRET WEAPON: Chocolate Milk
The carbs and protein will speed muscle repair, the process that makes you stronger. Sip 8 ounces of the low-fat kind after exercise.
THE PLAN: Do squats, lunges, and leg presses with weights and more frequently. Add the step-up (below) to your workouts.


To build muscle, choose a weight that you cannot lift for more than 12 reps while maintaining good form. You should really have to push to do the last few reps.


More Sets( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Instead of 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of each move, do 4 to 6 sets. This will build more strength faster. Rest 60 seconds between sets.3. STEP-UP

Step-Up( Illustration by Chris Philpot )

Stand facing a sturdy box or bench that’s just below knee height. Hold 5-pound or heavier dumbbells at sides. Step onto top of box with right foot, then left foot. Step back down with right foot, then left. Do 8 to 10 reps. Repeat starting with left foot; that’s 1 set. Do 4 to 6 sets.

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