3 Workouts to Strengthen Your Knees

13 08 2011


By The Editors of Prevention

Jennifer Goldstein, 32

Goal: To build muscle so she can climb Mount Rainier in September

Current Regimen: Works her legs (squats, lunges, and leg presses) three days a week; runs on treadmill 20 minutes twice a week.

Obstacles: Weakness and occasional pain from surgery last year to re-repair an ACL tear in her knee

Workout #1

Katy Bowman, MS, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, CA


Stairs & Stretches

The Plan: Running is not the right kind of cardio for someone with knee problems. Using a stair-climber will put less wear and tear on Jenn’s joints, and the vertical action will prep her glutes and quads for her Mount Rainier trek.

Jenn is now working the front of her legs, but she’ll get stronger and reduce stress on her knee joints if she targets the back of her legs too. She should do the exercises below whenever she strength-trains.

Power off pounds with this walking workout that trims and firms your hips, butt and thighs.


Top Toners


1. The Stepmill

This moving staircase—available at some gyms—is easy on joints but still a good cardio workout. Do 15 to 30 minutes two or three times a week.


2. Butt Builder

Hinge forward at hips, hands on wall.

Lift left leg back without moving hips. Hold for one minute.

Switch legs. Do three to five times with each leg.

3. Double Calf Stretch

Place balls of feet on rolled towel or yoga mat.

Bend at hips, lift tailbone, and rest hands on chair or thighs.

Hold one minute. Repeat after each strength move.

4 Moves to slim, sculpt and lift your lower body trouble spots in just 3 weeks.


Secret Weapon: The BOSU

Strengthen the small connective muscles at your knees by standing barefoot atop a BOSU, which is half of an exercise ball. Put one heel on the rounded side, the other leg lifted a few inches. Hold for three minutes per leg; do three to five times a week. ($100 for BOSU Balance Trainer and four DVDs; bosu.com)

Workout #2

Suzanne Nottingham, fitness trainer and author of Nordic Walking for Total Fitness


Walking Wonder

The Plan: Swapping running for pole walking will give Jenn a heart-pumping cardio workout while protecting her knees. She can also build more joint stability by trading in her machine-based strength-training regimen for the exercises below, which involve more muscles to execute each move.


Top Toners


1. Nordic Walking

Walking with poles takes pressure off knees. Train with poles at least 45 minutes four times a week, walking at a moderate to brisk pace. Two months prior to the climb, increase walking sessions to 60 minutes five times a week. Three weeks before, add in two long treks of two hours each.

2. Hamstring Curl

Lie on back, legs extended, heels atop stability ball. Press into heels and lift hips off floor.

Bend knees and roll ball in until it’s under knees. Roll out.

Do three sets of eight to 12 reps three times a week.

3. Wobble Lunge

Stand with a cushion, pillow, or pad under right foot, left foot about three feet behind you.

Bend knees and lower, keeping right knee over heel. Straighten legs.

Do 10 lunges, then switch legs and repeat.

Do three sets on each side three times a week.


Secret Weapon: Walking Poles

Because they engage the core and upper body for pushing off, a regular walk becomes a total-body workout. (Instructor poles by Leki, $150; leki.com)

Workout #3

Jay Dawes, MS, CSCS, clinical assistant professor of kinesiology at Texas A&M University


Heavy Lifting

The Plan: Jenn’s current workout has all the right moves—squats, lunges, and leg presses—but she needs to do more of them and with more weight. I also recommend that she add the step-up (below) to her present workouts. This move mimics the type of large steps she’ll take to climb Mount Rainier, which nothing in her current routine does.

Save your knees with this low-impact, do-anywhere, 10-minute workout.

Top Toners


1. Heavier Weights

To build muscle, choose a weight that you cannot lift for more than 12 reps while maintaining good form. You should really have to push to do the last few reps.


2. More Sets

Instead of three sets of eight to 12 reps of each move, do four to six sets. This will build more strength faster. Rest 60 seconds between sets.


3. Step-Up

Stand facing a sturdy box or bench that’s just below knee height. Hold five-pound or heavier dumbbells at sides.

Step onto top of box with right foot, then left foot. Step back down with right foot, then left.

Do eight to 10 reps. Repeat starting with left foot; that’s one set. Do four to six sets.


Secret Weapon: Chocolate Milk

The carbs and protein will speed muscle repair, the process that makes you stronger. Sip eight ounces of the low-fat kind after exercise.

Jenn’s Pick: Workout #1

Why She Chose It: “Substituting the step machine for the treadmill—genius. And the BOSU improved my agility and balance for my climb.”






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