A troublesome knee caused by an old sports injury or the years’ wear and tear can be, at the very least, not only a drag on your workouts, but also on the day to day activities.
You may think that running and resistance leg training days are the only parts of your regimen to take a hit, but a weak or painful knee can have a knock-on effect to other areas of your routine that you hadn’t even thought of.
Sure, so, first of all, running and especially sprinting will be out of the question. Plyometric workouts are not going to do you any good, and the idea of squatting at the full weight is all but unimaginable.
Curing Knee Injuries
It can also affect other forms of resistance training. Balance and posture are everything when it comes to many lifting techniques, and if you are off centre or one side can’t take the same strain as the other, then that will also result in one side of your back undergoing a disproportionate burden that can lead to injury. Even for standing hammer curls, or standing barbell shoulder presses, you may think that your knees don’t play a part in your balance and core strength, but for anyone that suffers an injury, you’ll know when it’s too late.
Knee injuries come in many forms, each requiring different methods of rehabilitation and medical attention. Recovery also depends on an individual’s ability to heal, so when it comes to time expectancy and the right solution for you, it is, of course, imperative that you follow your doctor and physio’s advice. In other words, as with all recovery and general workout pacing, for that matter, is essential that you listen to your own body above others’ advice.
As a general rule for common wear and tear injuries and knees that are on the track to healing, an impact is often to be avoided at all costs. This is because impact takes a serious toll on your joints, including your hips, ankles and knees. Loose cartilage and injured bones can become dislodged and fractured if they are seriously not ready for impact. For this reason, it is important to build it up gradually. Not all cardio training is limited to running and jumping, though.
The Most Beneficial Exercises
Swimming is the perfect place to start. It strengthens your muscles while working on your endurance, burning calories and developing your range of movement (which will likely have taken a hit during any recovery period). You can burn off roughly 350 calories during a vigorous, intense 30-minute swim. Water also creates more resistance than wind when running.
When you’ve suffered an injury, it’s quite normal for your leg to be stiff and inactive due to pain and weakened muscles. While it is tender, putting any kind of pressure on it can be a problem, so the trick is to build up with exercises that won’t impact the knee but will require it to move.
Speed walking and jogging may be out of the question, but a light, easy setting on a cycling machine is a good place to begin extending and bending your leg. As you develop, stepping machines will take this one step further; there will be more impact as your leg leaves the steps, but as steppers are based on resistance over speed, this will more smoothly strengthen your muscles.
Strength training becomes an important part of rebuilding your body after an injury, not just for bodybuilders and athletes. If your knee injury is related to your kneecap, your patella is held in place by surrounding muscles, so strengthening these will help with your stability. It’s best to consider each leg separately, as your injured knee will be weaker than the other and won’t be able to manage the same amount of weight.
Going back to what we mentioned earlier about posture, you should keep two key points in mind: to go at your own pace, and to focus on the proper posture and technique.
Weight & Resistance Training
Stick to the standard lifts at first: leg extensions and curls.
Select a feather-light weight. Your muscles will have been inactive and your aim is to work on the full range of movement, as opposed to gains. These single joint exercise machines will see your knee at the dead centre of the lift so you are certain to feel it. Engage your muscles so that you bear the weight in the intended muscles (your hamstrings and quads, depending on the exercise).
Leg curls and extensions are a good place to start along with light non-impact cardio, but recovery is about development. When you come to a point where you feel you can advance without exhausting your leg and adding to your injury, work on leg raises. Lying on your side with your ankles bound with a resistance band, raise your straight leg out and up. After ten reps, alter the angle so it’s slightly behind your lying leg after ten reps do the same with your leg slightly in front. It is about considering all muscles that contribute to your knee’s stability.
Next, it is time to confront some of the more knee-centric movements you come up against on a daily basis. The stepping (or stair) machine is a good place, to begin with, this low impact right angle to straight leg movement, but you can get yourself a step closer to squatting and compound lifts by squatting without weights from a sitting position. This is relatively easy enough without weights, but with an injured knee it will give you some indication of how you’re developing. When you’re feeling better, try a one-legged ‘pistol squat’ version of this.