By Makena Nixon, CPT, EP
The hips and knees are utilized continually throughout the day. They allow you to sit and stand, walk around, get in and out of bed or your car, bend down to pick things up, ride a bike, do yoga, and most likely any other activities you enjoy. Since we place such high demands on these joints they are by far the most commonly replaced. Each year in the United States there are more than 300,000 hips and 700,000 knees replaced. Even though these numbers are high, these surgeries do have the most reliable results. However, you want surgery to be a last resort because there is always the question, “how long will it last?”
So what can you do to put less wear and tear on your hips and knees?
You can avoid the imbalances and misalignments that contribute to strains and degeneration by strengthening the muscles surrounding the knees and hips. Strong outer-hip muscles, for example, keeps the knee from caving in every time your foot touches the ground. Incorporating hip and knee strengthening exercises into your workout routine now will not only help prevent surgery later on, but also will slow down the wearing of an already replaced joint.
Research has shown that knee valgus (knock-kneed appearance) is the most common due to a muscle imbalance, or from improperly performing exercises. However, this lack of strength can easily be improved with various exercises. A few of the key muscles to focus on strengthening in particular are the hip abductors, adductors, and glutes. All are closely interconnected with the core muscles; therefore, are crucial for balance and everyday activity. The main reason these muscles are commonly underactive is due to the extended time we spend sitting. Essentially the body “turns off” these muscles if they are not being used, which can lead to pain, poor performance and difficulty with certain movements.
Tri City Wellness and Fitness Center fitness staff emphasize movements that are functional (movements that closely mimic those used in everyday activities) and safe. Below are some preferred exercises to the machines that target the adductors, abductors, and gluteus muscles. Please consult a Trainer or Therapist if you are not sure which exercises are right for you. Incorporate these exercises into your regular routine or perform them together as a standalone strength session (do 1 to 3 sets of each exercise) two or three times per week.
Clamshell (with or without resistance band)-Abductors & Gluteus Medius: Begin by lying on your side on the ground. Support your head on your left arm. Flex the hips to 45 degrees and the knees to approximately 90 degrees, with your right leg directly on top of your left. This will be your starting position. Initiate the exercise by abducting your right leg, pushing your knee away from the midline of your body. Maintain contact between your feet throughout the movement. Pause at the top of the motion, and then return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Do both sides.
Inner Thigh Leg Left- Adductors: Begin by laying on your side with your hips stacked. Support your head by folding your floor side arm under your head. Place your top hand on the floor in front of you as a reminder to not lean forward or backwards (keeping hips stacked). Top leg bent, placing the foot flat in front of you. This way your bottom leg has the freedom to lift and lower. Lift your bottom leg up, flexing the foot, and hold for 2 seconds. Lower down for a count of 3, returning to the start position. Repeat on 1 side for 10 reps and then switch to the other leg, working up to 3 sets. As you progress, aim to do 20 reps on each side.
Adductor Squeeze (Crook Lying): Begin this groin strengthening exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated with a rolled towel or ball between your knees. Slowly squeeze the ball between your knees tightening your inner thigh muscles (adductors). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times as hard as possible and comfortably pain free.
Lateral Band Walking – Abductors & Gluteus Medius: Keeping the band flat, not bunched, place it just above each ankle and wrapped around both legs. With your feet shoulder width apart, the band should be taut, but not stretched. Bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position in order to activate the glute medius. Keep your feet in line with your shoulders, and face forward with your body weight evenly distributed over both feet. Maintaining the half-squat position, shift your weight over one leg and take a step laterally (sideways) with the other leg. Keep your hips level during the movement. Try not to bounce up and down or sway side to side. Slowly shift your weight to the moved leg and bring the other leg inward to a new ready position maintaining tension of the resistance band. Maintain a low, forward-facing posture.
If you would like to complete a complimentary fitness assessment or schedule an appointment with one of our nationally certified personal trainers please stop by the Fitness Desk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.