A step towards stronger knees

Knee stability is largely provided by the ligaments around the knee. While ligaments are slow to grow, they can become stronger over time in response to loading. The pressure/shear force in the knee exponentially increases as the knee moves forward over the toes while squatting. So, to build stronger knee ligaments and greater stability, “knees over toes” exercises can be a great tool. Even standing on one leg and reaching forward with that same knee can significantly load the patella tendon and posterior cruciate ligament.

This exercise also challenges your balance and stabilizing muscles throughout your legs, hips, and glutes, making it an effective tool to protect against various injuries, especially those related to the knee. To practice the “single leg forward step” exercise:

• Begin by shifting your weight onto one leg and lifting the other foot off the ground, extending it out in front of you. This is your starting position.

• Slowly lower your body down and push your knee forward on your standing side, while extending your lifted leg in front of you. You can aim to dip the heel of the extended leg onto the ground 30-40 cm in front of the supporting foot.

• As you lower yourself down, keep your back straight and chest up. The further you bend your knee, the more challenging the exercise becomes. The most advanced progression of this exercise is to lower yourself until your thigh is parallel to the ground (performing what is called a “Pistol Squat”).

• Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat, then push back up to the starting position, using the strength of your supporting leg.

• Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps on one leg before switching to the other leg. A good starting point is to go no deeper into the squatting position than that which allows you to perform 2 rounds of 25 forward steps per leg.

Additional advice:

If you’re having trouble balancing, you can hold onto a stable object to help stabilize yourself. You can also modify the exercise by performing it on a raised surface, such as a box or step

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