Your knees take an absolute pounding when you train and perhaps more punishment than any other joints. When you run, your knees absorb more than twice our bodyweight with every foot strike. Thankfully, your knees experience less strain when swimming and cycling, but the forces generated when you’re pedalling and tumble-turning can still leave your knees feeling weak if you happen to over do it.
It’s therefore essential that the muscles of your lower limbs are functioning at their optimum level – not only so they can help disperse the force generated when you train but also so they can keep your body in the correct biomechanical alignment.
A key muscle group to ensure your knees are kept strong and well conditioned are the gluteal muscles (maximus, medius and minimus) –your backside, in other words. These muscles are responsible for hip and thigh movement, keeping your torso erect and helping to maintain balance when you’re walking and running. They also support your knees when they’re extended, so it’s important that this muscle group is strong and well maintained.
When you train too hard there’s a chance that your posture could become sloppy, causing your hips to drop when you run. The consequence of this is that your knees are subjected to more direct force, as your body isn’t strong enough to keep your knees in their correct alignment. Strong glutes are essential for preventing this from happening, so try exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and single-leg step-ups.
Before you perform the exercises mentioned, it’s important to get the glutes firing to maximise the exercises’ effect. Glute kicks are a great isolation exercise and ideal for your warm-up. Using a cable machine, or simply lying on your front on the floor, bend you knees and raise a leg in the air. Squeeze your glute for five seconds and then lower your leg down. Repeat this on each leg 10 times.