I can tell you — with absolute certainty — what you did not do this morning:
You did not roll out of bed, stretch, and get up for breakfast, thinking to yourself, “Gosh, I’m so lucky. I have such great knees.”
When our knees are functioning correctly, we don’t give them much thought. However, it’s important to strengthen them to ensure that they last as long as possible — especially if you’re a youth soccer player.
Strengthen the Quads
Quadriceps help absorb shock before it reaches the knee joint, which lessens the strain on your knees, reducing pain and friction. Strengthen your quads with these impact-free exercises:
Straight Leg Raises: These work your quads without bending your knees. Simply sit down with one leg straight and one extended, flex your foot, and lift your leg off of the ground for 3-5 seconds before slowly lowering.
Wall Sit: Your quads and glutes can benefit from squats without putting pressure on your knees. Stand against a wall, place your feet hip-width apart, and slide down until your knees and hips are parallel. It’s crucial that you don’t slide below your knees or let your knees come over your toes!
Strengthen the Glutes
When glute muscles are weak, leg muscles and knee joints overcompensate to take on the load. Strong glutes relieve pressure on your knee joints and improve stabilization! Strengthen each muscle of your glutes with these exercises:
Glute Bridges: These work both sides of your gluteus maximus. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and aligned with your hips, then engage your glutes, lift them up, and squeeze and hold. As you lower your glutes, raise them again just before touching the floor. This handy move strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, core, quads, and opens your hips. Challenge yourself by elevating your legs on top of a bench or step, adding a resistance band, adding a weight plate, or doing one leg at a time.
Clamshell: This exercise targets the gluteus medius. Lay on your side and prop your head on your arm, bend your knees 90 degrees, and draw your knees in toward your body until your feet are in line with your butt. Raise your top knee as much as you can without lifting your hips or other knee.
Angled Kickbacks: Rather than doing your basic glute kickback, place a resistance band around the middle of your upper legs, and kick back at a diagonal. If your left leg is going back, kick diagonally to the left; if it’s your right leg, go to the right. This targets your gluteus minimus.
Knee health isn’t something to mess around with, especially in the world of youth soccer. If your want your knees to last, your body to stay strong, and your health to stay on point, make sure you check out our blog!