Finest Workouts for Runner’s Knee Ache

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Best Exercises for Runner’s Knee Pain

The runner's knee can derail the most dedicated running routines. It's a common name for pain around the kneecap – a result of soft tissue irritation. Too much running (overuse) is often the culprit. Poor walking mechanics also play a role, in part due to our culture of spending long hours at a desk and behind a steering wheel, which tightens our hips and hamstrings and puts undue strain on our knees, especially when running.

Therefore, the best exercises for the runner's knee are those that open up the hips and hamstrings and allow them to move properly, placing undue stress on the knees. By opening the hips, loosening the hamstrings, and promoting proper running mechanics, you can take considerable strain off the runner's knee and prevent it from returning. Here are the best exercises for doing just that.

1. Glute bridges

Tight glutes lead to stiff hips, poor movement patterns, and ultimately the runner's knee. Lie with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes together and bridge your hips with the ceiling. Only your shoulders and hips should stay on the floor. Hold for two seconds, then lower your hips toward the floor without touching them. This movement activates your glutes, which can no longer sit all day.

Do 2 x 10 repetitions

2. Lateral lunges

Running is a repetitive forward movement that, without proper cross-training, can lead to overuse injuries. The side lunge hits the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, all of which are critical to solid running mechanics. By strengthening these muscles, the knees can be relieved. Step out to the right, keeping your toes straight and feet flat, and lowering them until your knee is bent 90 degrees. Squat as low as you can with your left leg straight. Hold down for two seconds. Pass through the right heel to return to the starting position. Do all the repetitions on one side, then switch.

Do 2 x 10 repetitions per side

3. Wall sits

This simple but challenging movement strengthens the quads, which in turn takes the strain off the knees. Stand one foot in front of a wall and sit back flat as if you were sitting in an invisible chair.

Perform 2 x 30 seconds (or as long as possible) with a 30 second break in between

4. Standing calf raises

The calves and ankles play a big role in proper walking mechanics. This movement improves the flexibility of the ankle and calf strength and relieves the strain on the knee. Stand on a staircase with your heels over the edge and hold onto a railing. Slowly lower your heels while keeping your knees straight. Strongly straighten your ankles to perform the lift (go as high as your ankle flexibility allows).

Do 2 x 10 repetitions per side

5. Inchworms

This movement not only elongates your hamstrings, it also builds stability in your core and flexibility in your ankles. Start with your legs straight and hands on the floor. Keep your legs straight and extend your hands. Then move your feet back to your hands – keeping your legs straight as you do so. Take small steps with only your ankles. Avoid using hips, knees, and quads.

Do 2 x 10 repetitions with a 30 second break in between

6. Fire hydrant

This opens the groin and glutes, and provides flexibility that takes the pressure off your knees. On all fours, raise your right hip until it is parallel to the floor, imitating the movements of a dog. Raise your leg as parallel to the floor as possible and open the groin area.

Do 2 x 10 repetitions per side

7. Side boards

This provides the core and hip stability that is essential for proper running form. Lie with your forearm on the floor and your elbow just under your shoulder. Your body should be in a straight line with toes drawn towards your shins. Push your elbow up and form a straight line from your ankle to your shoulder. Only the edge of your lower foot and your elbow should be in contact with the ground.

Perform 2 x 30 seconds (or as long as possible) with a 30 second break in between

Pete Williams is a NASM certified personal trainer and author and co-author of several books on performance and training.

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