Your knees are a synovial hinge joint consisting of your tibia, femur and patella bones and are capable of flexion, extension and moderate rotation when bent. The knee joint is held together by the cruciate and collateral ligaments, and the articular surfaces are covered in cartilage to minimize wear and tear. There are a number of exercises you can perform to keep your knee joints and the associated muscles in good shape.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
If your quadriceps at the front of your thighs become overly tight, your patella or kneecap can become misaligned. To avoid this, stand with your feet together and close to a wall for balance. Bend your left leg and reach back with your left hand so that you can hold your ankle. Keeping your thighs together, gently pull your foot toward your butt. As you relax into the stretch, exhale and try to pull your foot a little further in. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, and then change legs.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Overly tight hamstrings can have a negative effect on knee function by pulling your knee out of alignment. Perform this exercise to keep your hamstrings flexible: Sit upright on an exercise bench with your legs bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg so it is straight and your heel is resting on the floor with your toes pointing up toward the ceiling. Place your hands on your bent leg. Keeping your back straight, lean forward at the hips and lower your chest–not your head–toward your thigh. Exhale and relax as you lean further forward to gently stretch your hamstrings. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before swapping legs and repeating.
Squats will strengthen the muscles that surround your knee. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and you feet turned slightly outward. With your weight spread evenly between your heel and forefoot, push your hips back and bend your knees as far as is comfortable. Straighten your legs to stand back up again. You can make this exercise more challenging by holding dumbbells in your hands or resting a barbell across your upper back.
Keeping your quadriceps at the front of your thigh strong can help stabilize your knees and keep the joints in good shape. Sit on the leg extension machine and adjust the back rest and leg pads to suit your height and leg length. With the lower leg pad resting just above your ankles, extend your legs until you knee as is close to straight as you can comfortably manage. Slowly lower the weight back into the starting position and repeat.
Your hamstring muscles at the rear of your thigh should be as strong as your quadriceps at the front to keep your knee joint balanced and healthy. Sit on the leg curl machine and adjust the back rest and leg pads to suit your height and leg length. Starting with your legs fully extended, draw your feet down and back toward your butt. Pull your feet in as far as is comfortable. Slowly extend your legs to return to the starting position and repeat.
About this Author
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. Also a lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a major contributor for Ultra-FIT magazine and has been involved in fitness for 22 years. Other than a five-year service in the Royal Marines, Dale has always worked in health and fitness and never intends leaving.