To feel your best, it is essential to keep your body's ligaments strong and limber. Over time, much-used ligaments, such as those in the knees, can wear out and weaken as they stressed by everyday wear and tear, athletic activities and body weight. Knee-strengthening exercises will improve ligament function and ensure better overall health.
Exercises meant to build strength in the joints and ligaments are only effective when performed regularly. Each of the exercises listed below should be performed three times each week, with at least 24-hours rest in between. During the exercises, the muscles and ligaments are broken down. It is during the rest periods that they are rebuilt and strengthened, so incorporating rest periods into your routine is crucial.
Begin each exercise with 2 sets of 5 repetitions each. Once you are comfortable performing those sets, begin to add repetitions until you work up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions each. To make the exercises harder and more effective, add resistance by wearing ankle weights. When performing the exercises, hold them for a few seconds at the top of the stretch, such as when your leg is fully extended during a knee extension, and flex the muscle before lowering slowly.
Position yourself behind a chair or a table. Grip the edge of the table for additional stability, if necessary, perform the exercise with your hands to your side to help improve balance. Lift one foot from the floor until the lower leg is parallel with the floor and makes an "L" shape. Or, for a more difficult stretch, touch the buttox with the heel. Hold the stretch for 6 to 15 seconds. Lower the foot to the floor slowly, and repeat with alternate leg.
Sit in a chair with your back straight against the back of the chair. Do not slouch. Raise one leg at a time until it forms a straight line. Hold the extension for at least 5 seconds, up to 15 seconds. As you are holding the stretch, flex the foot towards the head. This is not necessary for the knee ligaments but will provide additional stretch in the calf muscle. Place the foot back on the floor. Repeat with other leg.
For years, squats were thought to damage the knee ligaments, but a study by the American Sports Institute in Birmingham, Alabama showed that there was no harm when the exercises are done properly. The study was printed in the April 1998 "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" journal in an article entitled, "Biomechanics of the knee during closed kinetic chain and open kinetic chain exercises." To begin, hold an appropriately weighted barbell behind your head, across your shoulders, or perform the squat without additional weight and hold the arms straight out in front of you. Position your feet so that they are shoulder-width apart. Behind slightly forward at the hips and bend the knees until you are in a squatting position with the thighs parallel to the floor. It is essential not to allow your knees to veer inward as this is what causes stress to the knees. Pushing with your heels, return to the upright position.