Marsh column: Stretches for healthy knees
I am excited with the feedback I have been receiving on healthy knees. Besides the strength exercises, it is as important to look into the flexibility of your knee joint.
What exactly is flexibility? It’s a person’s ability to move the joints through a normal, pain-free range of motion (ROM). I am not asking you to become ballerina flexible, but your joints should be stretched to restore the balance and function of the tight muscles surrounding that joint —that really is true for all of your joints. And as one of our dear members asked me, “Do I have to do this for the rest of my life?” I answered, “Yes, if you want to keep that joint loose.” It is recommended to generally stretch the major muscle groups 2 to 3 times a week. Personally, I have found that when I stretch after each workout (6 times a week), I really benefit by preventing excessive muscle soreness and prevent muscle injury. Three to 4 times a week, I spend more than 45 minutes on flexibility.
The main muscles that make up the knee joint are the quadriceps (upper front leg muscles), hamstrings (back of the upper leg muscles), the leg adductors (the inside of your upper leg muscles), the IT band (illio tibial band on outside of upper leg), calves (back of lower leg muscles) and the tibialis anterior (front of the lower leg muscles) Again, these are the main muscles that make up the knee joint that we will focus on with our stretch exercises. To restore or work on your balance between the muscles, it is important not to start stretching cold. The best time is after a warm-up where you feel your core temperature is up. Marching in place, a nice walk or after your cardio or strength workout would all be good times to work on your flexibility/ range of motion.
Quadriceps stretch: Standing position, (you can hold on with your other arm on the wall or a sturdy chair) bend other leg and hold on to ankle. Both knees are next to each other. Now push your hip forward and feel the stretch on the front of your bent leg. You can do this also lying down on your side and the top leg is bent. Hold all stretches for about 30 seconds and do those 4 times, or do them 8 times at 15 seconds each.
Hamstring stretch: Seated position with your legs straight in front of you. Gently reach towards your toes with your legs straight. On the spot where you feel slight discomfort (not pain — this is for all stretches) hold 30 seconds. Try to keep your back as straight as possible and bend from the hip.
Adductors: Seated position legs are wide, same principle as hamstrings — reach forward until discomfort and hold. Legs stay straight.
IT Band: Standing position — cross the “stretching leg” behind the front leg. If that is your right bring your right arm up and reach while pushing into the hip (towards the right). Do the same on the other side — left leg, left arm push into left side hip.
Calf stretch: standing with both hands on the wall, bring stretching calf back and push heel on the floor (leaning against the wall). Make sure your heels are behind your toes (parallel) lean towards wall and hold. Switch to other side.
Tibialis anterior: a hard one to stretch and typically not very tight— seated position, legs straight in front of you shoulder width apart. Point toes down and inward (plantar flexion and inversion)
Make stretches part of your exercise routine. You will feel so much better and many people I have dealt with have joint issues because of the inability to move freely due to tight muscles and tendons (the tendons attach the muscles to the bones). Once again, yoga classes, Bodyflow, Estelatte all focus on healthy range of motion of the joints. We would love for you to join us or any other Yoga or stretch class in this community.Ester H Marsh ACSM Cpt