How to Protect Your Knees in 5 Easy Moves, According to a Physical Therapist

To protect your knees against stress and injury, follow this quick series from Sam Chan, DPT, ATC, CSCS, physical therapist and athletic trainer from Bespoke Treatments New York.

In our latest installment of “The Fix,” Chan runs through exercises that build hip and quad strength, “which are really important to take away any stress at the kneecap and at the joint.” To improve mobility and your knees’ endurance for taking on stress, follow the video above.

Read on for brief overviews of each move.


Side Plank with Leg Raise

“This is a great exercise that’s going to target the lateral hip that gluteus medius muscle. This is a really important muscle that’s going to support your knee,” Chan says. “Place it in the proper position when you’re going through your squats and your lunges and your workouts. In the side plank position focus on the “three Hs:” Heels, hip, head in perfect alignment. Lift your top leg up toward the ceiling up and down. You’ll feel most of the burn at the bottom of your lower hip where your gluteus medius is working hard. Do two to three sets of 10 repetitions per side.

Eccentric Split Squat

    Set up in a lunge position with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly drop your rear knee down towards the floor in a five-second descent. You’ll “feel a very strong stretch in that back leg,” as well as your hip flexors and quads, Chan says. You may feel some tension around your kneecaps as well. “This is a really tough exercise that’s gonna really wake you up and get you nice and limber.” Do two sets of eight repetitions per leg.

    Goblet Squat

    Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell. “When we’re thinking about knee health, we want to build the quads up nice and strong to take the pressure away from the kneecaps and protect your joint,” Chan says. Do a squat while you hold the weight steady and this move will target your quads big time. Do four sets of eight to 10 repetitions

    Reverse Nordic Exercise

      Get on your knees while keeping your upper body upright. Before you start the exercise, squeeze the glutes and keep your abs tight drawing your rib cage to the belt buckle. “You should already feel a stretch in the thigh before you start the repetition,” Chan says. With your hands crossed on your chest, lean back with a three-to-five second descent on every repetition. You may feel a bit of discomfort in your knees. If it hurts, do less repetitions and start with two or three repetitions, and add in more as you build strength.

      Isometric Box Step

        It’s time to build some endurance in that quad muscle. Put one foot on a box or a yoga block and maintain a 90-degree angle throughout the exercise. Tap up and down on the box for 15 seconds to start on each side. “We’re trying our best not to let the knee bounce up and down. You’re gonna feel a burn in the thigh and the quadriceps muscle,” Chan says. “This is an advanced version of the wall sit.”

        Try and do this series a few times a week to support your knees. “As you can see, keeping your knees healthy involves building strength from the lateral hips and building strength in those quadriceps muscles, really hitting those muscles in a sustained manner, [and giving them] time and attention, that’s gonna keep your knees happy. That’s going to keep you moving well and pain-free throughout your workouts,” Chan says.

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