7 Exercises to Help Prevent Knee Injuries

From netball to basketball, running to cross fit and everything in between, if you exercise or play sport – your knees are regularly under a lot of strain and impact. PLUS the additional stress and strain of everyday life.

Knee ‘niggles’ are common and if not managed properly can quickly develop into something more serious. 

We’re big fans of proactive and preventative action when it comes taking care of our bodies and minds. So, we spoke with health and fitness expert Alex from Duo Pilates who is not just a Pilates Instructor but also a PT and Registered Nurse … so she knows a thing or two about injuries and preventative action :) 

 

Knee Issues – Preventative Care and Injury Management 

 

I once heard someone say that the knee is the poor child left in the middle of its parent’s messy divorce!

 

Unfortunately, knee injuries are by far one of the most common joints to be susceptible to injury. They can be caused by overuse or repetitive stress often related to imbalances in the body and usually to do with the way the knee is tracking with the hips and ankles. Knee injuries can also occur from a sudden injury i.e. from landing in an awkward position playing sports.  

While we want to avoid a sudden injury, these can happen to people who have previously never had any knee issues.

 

What we CAN DO is prevent further damage to our knees by correcting imbalances in our body, particularly around the hips, that could be contributing to a potential knee injury.

 

Those who play sports like basketball or netball have an even higher chance of getting an injury due to the nature of the sport. Sudden stops, starts, pivots and potentially awkward jumps and landings are not exactly knee friendly.

 

Many elite athletes including NBA players like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Matthew Dellavedova, just to name a few, have all added Pilates into their exercise regimes at one point in the career.

While Pilates has been around for decades as a rehabilitation style of exercise, it has only recently become a well-known preventative form of exercise!

 

Why Pilates?

 

Pilates helps to not only improve core strength, but core stability also. Better core stability help athletes improve the efficiency of their movement patterns – which leads to improved agility.

 

With a focus on correct form and technique, Pilates teaches you to have better body awareness. By having better body awareness, you become much more conscious of your posture, alignment and proprioception. For basketball and netball players – developing a better sense of where their hips, knees and feet are in space allows for safer and more efficient transitions in movement which decreases the chances of an injury occurring.

 

One of the main reasons that Pilates is so effective is because of its focus on correct glute activation. Poor glute activation is a problem that affects many people including those with knee issues. There are 3 glute muscles in total (Glute max, glute med, glute min) and they all play an important role in stabilising the whole body. All 3 Glute muscles should work together to provide power and stability and assist in good posture. When they are not working in sync in can result in lower back pain, knee, hip, ankle or foot issues – just to name a few.

 

Below are 5 Mat Pilates exercises and 2 Reformer Pilates exercises that you can do to improve your glute activation, core stability and help improve alignment, balance and build strength around the knee joint. (All of these exercises are tried and tested on Duo Pilates client Natalie Taylor, NZ Basketball Olympian)

 

If you currently have a knee injury, I would highly recommend speaking to your doctor/physiotherapist before trying these exercises. While they are effective, they may not be suitable for you depending on the type of injury you have and how acute the injury is.

 

5 Mat Pilates Exercises

 

Clamshell

Set up:

  • Lie on your side with your knees bent and your feet together.
  • Your feet should line up with the back of the mat.
  • Stretch out your bottom arm behind your head and rest your head onto your arm.
  • Create a little gap underneath your bottom waist, straighten out your back and engage your abdominals.
  • Place your hand on your top hip

Instruction:    

  • Exhale, open your top knee without moving your hip.
  • Inhale, lower your knee back down and repeat. 
  • Aim to complete 10-15 reps each  side. 

 

Side lying Leg lift

Set up:

  • Lie on your side with your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle.
  • Your shins should be parallel to the front of your mat.
  • Stretch your bottom arm out behind your head and rest your head onto your arm.
  • Create a little gap underneath your bottom waist, straighten out your back and engage your abdominals. 

Instruction:    

  • Exhale, open your top knee without moving your hip.
  • Inhale, lower your knee back down and repeat. 
  • Aim to complete 10-15 reps each  side. 

 

Dead bug (lowering opposite arm + leg)

Set up:

  • Lying on your back with your spine imprinted, legs in tabletop and your arms reaching up towards the ceiling.

Instruction:    

  • Exhale, slowly lower one leg down while simultaneously lowering the opposite arm back behind you.
  • Inhale, lift your leg and arm back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue with this movement.

 

Front Support Hold

Set up:

  • Start in a 4-point kneeling position with your shoulders directly above your wrists and your hips directly above your knees.

Instruction:    

  • Exhale, tuck your toes under and lift your knees up to hover an inch off the ground and hold.
  • Inhale, lower your knees back down.
  • Repeat 8-10 reps.

 

Ab Curl                     

Set up:

  • Lie on your back with your spine in neutral, knees bent and feet flat.
  • Interlock your hands behind your head and let the weight of your head relax into your hands.

Instruction:    

  • Exhale, lift up into an abdominal curl, keeping your spine in neutral.
  • When you lift up into your abdominal curl, imagine there is a grape underneath your lower back. Try not to squash the grape as you curl up.
  • Draw your ribcage down towards your hips as you curl up and try not to let your rib cage stick back out when you lower your head down. This will keep your abdominals switched on throughout the movement.
  • Inhale, lower your head and chest back down.
  • Repeat 10-15 reps.
  •  

2 Reformer Pilates Exercises

 

Reformer leg work with different foot positions:

  1. Feet and knees turned out
  2. Knees and feet turned in
  3. Single leg

Set up:

  • Lying down on the carriage with your head in between the shoulder rests.

Instruction:    

  • Place your heels on the corner of the footbar and turn your toes and knees out to the side.
  • Move your feet and knees into one of the above positions (you will compete 2 sets in each position)
  • Exhale, press the carriage all the way out.
  • Inhale, bring the carriage all the way back in.
  • Complete 2 sets or 20 reps

 

Reformer Lunges

 Set up:

  • Standing next to the reformer, place one foot in front of the shoulder rest and the other in line with the footbar. Make sure your hips are square, and your abs are engaged.

Instruction:    

  • Exhale, press the carriage out as you bend your front knee.
  • Make sure you keep your knee and foot tracking in line with each other.
  • Inhale, return the carriage back to the starting position.
  • Complete 10-15 reps each side.

 

If you are reading this, play basketball or any other sport that puts you at a high risk of a knee injury, I highly recommend that you incorporate Pilates into your season training or post season training to help correct any muscle imbalances.

Pilates will also help to improve your posture and body awareness, flexibility, range of motion and improve your overall body strength and core stability.

 

Do you include Pilates in your training? 

 


Alex is a qualified Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor and Registered Nurse. 

She started working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer when she was 18 while studying at university to become a Nurse. It was after a few years of Personal Training that she discovered her love for Pilates! 

Pilates quickly became her favourite type of exercise and she could not get enough! Her passion for Pilates led her to start up Duo Pilates, a Pilates studio in Morningside, Brisbane in 2016.

Alex is big on educating her clients about their movement while taking them through an intensive Pilates workout. She believes that in order to train our body the right way, we first need to train the mind to acquire body awareness.

Keep an eye out for her Pilates E-Book coming soon called ‘The Duo Pilates Method’ packed with 12 weeks of programmed Pilates classes that you can do from home.

You can follow Alex on Instagram @duopilatesauor get in contact with her via email alex@duopilates.com.au