At some time in your life you may have experienced knee pain. Maybe you played high impact sports in your life? Or you are a weekend warrior? Maybe you have had a knee injury or surgery? Or do you just feel stiffness in your knees when you wake up in the morning? Knee pain can change your life by limiting the activities you participate in on a daily basis. Pain in the knees can also lead to putting on excess weight by keeping you less active.
You may have been taught knee exercises over the years in training, sports or therapy. Or you might have looked up ‘knee exercises’ on YouTube and found a host of exercises by various credentialed and non-credentialed experts. But in my opinion, there is always something missing in all those knee exercises which is critical to not only relief from knee pain, but in keeping your knees strong for life.
In my practice, the patients that have the most success in being freed from knee pain and returning to their activities of daily living are those that strengthen not only their quads, but follow my program to strengthen their glutes as well. You might ask, “why the glutes? Is it because they are connected to the hamstrings?”. My answer would be no.
The glutes have a major function, which is to keep your body in an upright position. As the ‘hinge’ muscle, it connects the upper part of your body to the lower part. This muscle is activated in the simplest tasks in life: getting out of bed, getting up from a chair, walking up stairs and getting out of a car. Bottom line, so to speak, your glutes will determine how you age in life
The function of the glutes in knee pain is simply this: when you have weak glutes, your body leans forward as you stand or walk, changing your center of gravity. Every inch forward you lean, increases the weight of your head by 10 pounds. This means you can easily be walking around with an additional 30 pounds or more of force. This force increases the stress on your knees, literally changing the way you walk by putting your knees in more hyper-extension with each step. The result is poor articulation of the knee joint in motion, and subsequently, knee pain.
With strong glutes, your body is held up in alignment and there are no abnormal forces working on the knee as you stand or walk. The knee can articulate in a normal range of motion without added weight from a leaning forward body. But please don’t attempt to get stronger glutes by rushing out to do squats. Not only do squats not functionally strengthen the glutes, it’s a terrible exercise for your knees and your back. The squat would make my list of ‘Exercises That Age You” for sure.
The best and most functional exercises to strengthen your glutes can be found on my “Better Back” DVD, click here, because strong glutes are the answer to back pain also. By combining the glute exercises on the “Better Back” dvd, with the “Wall Slides” exercise (see below) you can keep your Glutes and your Quads strong and relieve knee pain and pressure. Wall Slides should be performed as follows:
- Stand with your back to the wall about 1-1.5 foot away from the wall
- Position your feet turned slightly out at a 45 degree angle
- Lean back against the wall with your head, shoulders and arms against the wall, keeping your palms faced outward
- Bend your knees and lower your body down against the wall slowly for a count of 3, as if you are sitting to about 45 degrees
- Slowly begin to straighten your knees raising your body up against the wall for a count of 3
- Repeat this 10 times. Then walk around and repeat again for 10 times.
(The image below has the man sitting much too low at a 90 degree angle. You should begin by lowering only to a 45 degree angle)
You will want to perform Wall Slides against a smooth surface like your refrigerator or a door.