It is the time of the year that I love the most. As a ginger, the sun and I don’t get along, so I love the short, cold days of winter. In the past, I used to hate the winter because my knees would be achy and in pain all day. I know I am not the only one who has had this problem. If you did not know, I had a series of knee surgeries that used to cause me pain and agony. I thought I was going to be in pain for the rest of my life, but I fixed that. For 3 years after my last surgery, I would rarely do leg work and this was the #1 problem why I was in so much pain. I used to hate doing leg exercises. In fact, I am still not a fan of leg day workout, but every time I go into the gym I will do my leg work. Every personal training client I work with doesn’t like legs, but it is essential. Dealing with knee pain is not fun.If you are dealing with knee pain, you should not have to suffer. Take the time to work on these tips that took me from years of agony to a 400 pound pain free squat without pain!
3 Ways to Improve Knee Pain with a Personal Trainer
1. Strengthen Those Buns, Hammies, and Core
If you have worked out with me during personal training, I bet you have heard me say “tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes” 10 million times. There is a reason why I say this. Do you know what the most important muscle group in your body is?
Strong glutes protect and stabilize your low back, hips and knees. This may be stupid, but how many of you can squeeze your butt? I am sure everyone can. Can you squeeze your butt when performing an exercise? In personal training, I often have to teach people to contract their butt! What really helped me and my personal training clients is to practice tightening your abs and squeezing your glutes in your everyday life. Silly I know but if we can improve our glute strength and stabilization, life can be less painful. If you’re not sure how to contract your glutes, just put your hands on your butt and tighten. Is your butt getting hard? If not, you need help waking your glutes up, checkout my glute amnesia program.
How many of you know how to do a perfect squat, step up, and/or lunge? When you do these exercises, do you push through your toes or through your heels? If you said heels, you are correct. We as a society are quadricep dominant. When we have too strong or over active quadriceps compared to our hamstrings, we’re at risk for knee injuries. A big tip to remember,when you pushing through your toes you’ll activate your quadriceps and when you push through your heels you’ll activate your glutes and hamstrings. Remember to push through your heels during most lower body exercises and feel that backside burn! This does not mean that our toes are off the ground, but you want to drive through your heels. Also, if you’re not using multi-directional exercises, you’re not maximizing your butt activity.
Glute and hip weakness is a common problem that can cause knee pain.Weakness in these areas, will cause the knee to pull inward and place stress on the inner knee. Lateral strength exercises that involve the hips and core will help strengthen these areas and stabilize the knee. If anyone has complaints of knee pain during our personal training screening, you can bet I’m giving them a lot of multi-directional glute exercises.
2. Get Your Mobility In
Muscle tightness can and will occur with everyone. Even if you feel great, there are still knots in our bodies. These knots can alter muscle strength and increase increase stress on certain joints, increasing injury risk.. When a muscle is overactive, the opposing stabilizer muscle is weaker and not doing its job appropriately. The mobility spots that have helped me over that years for my knee pain have been a ball across the Quadratus Lumborum (low back), Glutes, Tensor Facia Latae (hip), Illiotibial Band (above the side of the knee) and Gastronemius and Soleus (calf). If you have a foam roll, rolling out the quadriceps, hamstrings, groin muscles and spine have really made my knee feel great over the years! As a personal trainer, I have a wide range of tools for improving tissue quality. For some, a foam roll on the thigh is enough, for others a heavy bar on the quad or a baseball against a wall is necessary. Whatever the case, there are tools for the job and at COR our personal trainers know what tools to use.
3. Body Mechanics
Have you had knee pain for years? This can be be caused by poor biomechanics during exercise or everyday life. The most common problem I see in people when they are working out is knees going over the toes when squatting, lunging, or stepping up. When the knees come over the toes, this puts a ton of stress on that knee joint. How to fix this is to get your hips and glutes back when squatting, this will help recruit the hamstrings and the glutes assist the quadriceps. When we are lunging, taking a wide step and going straight down and pushing up through the front heel will activate the glutes and hamstrings. When we step up or walk up stairs, putting your whole foot on the step and driving through the heel will recruit those muscles.
Have you done these exercises or other exercises that involve balance and your knee is moving inward? The reason for this is that our groin muscles are tighter or stronger than our hip muscles.
Don’t let that knee cave in!
This is called muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances are common in everyone. Having a personal trainer spot these imbalances can save you from knee pain. However, spotting the imbalance is only part of the solution. Next, progressively learning the correct biomechanics during personal training is key for reversing millions of faulty movements of the years.
Knee pain can be a pain in the butt! I have great news, it can easily be avoided and helped with personal training. If you are somebody who is on the heavier side, working with a personal trainer on losing the weight will help save your joints. At COR, we perform movement screenings that help spot any imbalances or risks of injuries that you may have before any exercising begins. Even if they are small problems, we need to fix them as soon as possible before they turn into serious problems!
Written by Chris Barber, CPT