12 Gifts to Give to Your Knees

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Many individuals want to do more than they are physically capable of doing with safe, confident movement. A few weeks ago Brianna Kelly, Strength Coach at t’s time! Fitness Results addressed how to start the season “fit to ski.” If you are a skier and missed this segment I suggest you take a read. I especially liked the warm-up she created that you can do with your boots on and poles in hand!

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like skiing, running, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

In his e-book Fitness coach, writer, and pod-caster Scott Iradella reminds us that if we “move better, and then move stronger, everything else will follow. Iradella states that many people skip the foundations to chase the aesthetic goals. I add in here “sports” goals as well. Whether your sport is for pleasure and recreational purposes, or competitive in nature it’s the love of the sport that drives the activity, not necessarily the quality of the movement!

In her book “Move Your DNA, Restore Your Natural Health Through Natural Movement,” one of my favorite authors Katy Bowman writes that movement is not as optimal as we have led ourselves to believe if you are indeed thinking that fitness and sports will get you there. Bowman writes extensively on letting go of the notion that movement is exercise. To move your health forward she encourages us to rearrange the relationship between movement and exercise and incorporate movement skills 24/7, and then add exercise (and sport) once the foundation is set.

With Scott Iradella’s permission this graphic gives a nice visual for you to think about. He writes, “No matter what your goals are (look better, feel better, or perform better) – we must work to improve our strength.” Building Strength on a poor foundation is asking for trouble so today we will start by looking at the feet as the foundation of movement when upright.

Anatomy bit: The knee is a complex hinge joint and one of the most stressed joints in the body. It is vital for weight bearing and movement, and vulnerable to injury. It consists of bones, meniscus, ligaments, and tendons.

“I feel it in my knee(s),” I hear this too often. ~Sheila

Imbalances, Lack of strength, Overuse, Injury, Age.  Pick one, pick all? Lots can go wrong here.

In my experience, the knee is often where people feel discomfort and pain, and hear snaps and clicks. If you have suffered a knee injury (of which there are many) you might be surprised to learn that it could have been prevented if you had better quality foundational movement with more strength built on top. (See above diagram)

If you’re looking to blame the knees because of poor movement and exercise quality you have to look at much more than the knee itself. Improving the knee pain is one thing but correcting the underlying problem that got you there in the first place will involve assessing the mobility, strength, and mechanics of everything above and below the knees. This may be a matter of trial and error, working with movements to improve the quality and re-train a healthier pattern.

With a lack of high-quality foundational movement, we set ourselves up for injury, especially of we add overuse to this with a lot of running for example. (Or any sport.) In her book, Alignment Matters, author Katy Bowman reports on the results of MRI’s of 236 adults ages 45 – 55. It showed that those in the high activity group (Large quantities of movement, high impact or repetitive motion) had knee damage three times more severe than the couch potatoes! Excessive mileage and impact forces from overuse are contributing to the increasing levels of osteoarthritis, knee surgeries, and knee replacements. Do not read this as an excuse to stay on the Lazy – Boy, but as one of the many reasons why training smart is so important.

As we age we often have a change in gait parameters such as stride time and length, swing time and stride width. Typically with age we lose strength unless we take it upon ourselves to resistance train. And on top of that sometimes we resistance train without proper knowledge of our own bodies nuances, and proper exercise technique.

It’s the imbalances, incorrect and non-symmetrical wearing patterns occurring for various reasons that lead to injury. The research has shown us that the muscles acting on the knee are strongly correlated with gait performance. Increasing your strength of movements around the knee such as knee flexion and extension, hip flexion and extension, and core strength will improve gait characteristics and therefore improve the loads on the knee.

I love the simplicity of the article by Erica Suter, a soccer and strength coach from Baltimore, “5 Reasons You Have Bad Knees,” because despite the frankness it holds a lot of truths in my opinion! Her #1 reason you have bad knees is: Your butt isn’t big enough. That said, one of the gifts you can give yourself is a bigger butt then right?

So perhaps the visual inspection should include your butt (professional term glutes!) but I’m saving that for next week’s blog!

Knee Inspections

Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

Do they turn in or out, do they look the same left to right?

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you move up and down from the floor?
  • Can you flex your knee (heel to butt) and extend your knee so your leg is straight?
  • Can you kneel without pain?
  • Can you move your kneecaps or do they feel stuck?

Sensory Inspection: How do they feel? What do you hear?

  • Do you have pain, clicking, grinding, in one or both knees?
  • Do your knees ever get swollen?

12 Gifts for Your Knees

Wherever your knees are at today you can start giving them some love with these gifts. Undo some of the damage they have received over the years from poor posture, strength, sports, injuries, and neglect!

#1 Stop thinking about it being just your knees….

…and start thinking about it being about your overall fitness. Look above and below the sight of pain for your problem.

An imbalance or movement impingement with your hips, ankles or feet may affect your knees! If you want to continue to run and ski or return to an activity you enjoy look to improve your overall fitness by working on your foundation.

#2 Release the muscles around the knee and stretch your quads.

#3 Practice full knee extension from a lying position.

Get rid of the bend in the back of the knee, even if this means not getting your leg up so far.

#4 Feel your kneecaps and help them move.

Move them in a circle and around in a clock pattern – both directions.

#5 Start your glute strengthening program with this gold standard exercise.

Bridges are a great exercise to strengthen and build your butt!

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Set your rib-hip connection by connecting chin, ribs and hips to the floor. (Only a small low back curve.)
  • Push your heels into the floor and engage (squeeze) your glute muscles and lift your hips off the floor creating a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees.
  • Hold for 2 seconds and lower your back down to the floor while keeping your core muscles engaged. The torso should move as a solid unit.

Too easy? Look to progressing gluts with hip dominant exercises like deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.

#6 Do some single leg and balance work

#7 Correct knee hyperextension.

Soften those knees!

#8 Walk forward, backward and left and right.

Use a band to increase the resistance if appropriate for your fitness level.

#9 Don’t go looking for pain but go looking for help.

If squats bother you then don’t squat.  If kneeling hurts then don’t kneel.

But don’t use this as an excuse not to exercise! Seek out professionals to guide you through the needed steps that you need to improve.

#10 Consider giving your knees a break.

Use alternative methods of getting movement like biking, swimming, and upper body training until your knees improve.

Med ball slams, ropes, kettlebell swings. Telling a runner not to run is not an easy thing to do!

#11 Ensure your bodyweight is in check.

Excess weight is not helping a lot of things but if you have knee pain and are more than 20 pounds overweight then I would bet than losing weight will reduce your pain.

#12 Hold yourself accountable to a program so you have a roadmap to your success.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you really want this knee problem to go away then you must have a plan! Quality movements with safe appropriate loads and progressions are what you want your training plan to consist of. Listening to your body and modifying your program appropriately are key to improvements here.

Give your knees some of these gifts this season and see where they can take you next year!
Next week: Gifts for your hips.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.


5 Reasons You Have Bad Knees

Bad knees? What Did They do?

Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through natural Movement Katy Bowman copyright 2017 P. 112

Copyright: <a href=’’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>