Your knees can become weakened due to injury, a condition such as arthritis, illness or inactivity. When the muscles and structures that support your joints lose their strength, knee instability that results can lead to joint damage and disability. Lunges are good exercises to help your knees become stronger and more stable. However, if you’ve had persistent knee problems, consult a doctor or physiotherapist before trying these exercises.
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Goal of Strength Work for the Knees
When you do exercises such as lunges for your knees, the goal is to build strength in opposing muscles and connective tissue to keep the joint as stable as possible during an entire range of motion, notes Rob DeStefano, a chiropractor and co-author of “Muscle Medicine.” Body-weight exercises, such as lunges, are the overall best exercises for the functional body strength and balance you use on a daily basis. The muscles that lunges target to help strengthen the knee are the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.
Types of Lunges
Basic lunges are the most common types of this exercise. From a standing position, take a big step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body so your front leg is bent about 90 degrees. Raise yourself up and return your right leg to the starting position. Other types of lunges including walking lunges -- you basically perform the motion of a stationary lunge, then stand up and bring your trailing leg forward, and repeat the lunge motion. Side lunges can also help prevent pain felt during basic lunges. To do a side lunge, start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, then take a big step to the side with your right leg. Your left leg will be stretched. Slowly bend your knee, lowering your hips and outstretched leg toward the ground.
Before doing any knee-strengthening exercise, spend five to 10 minutes warming up with some light cardio, such as walking or cycling at a moderate pace. If your legs and knees are very weak, do lunges while holding on to a table, desk or the back of a chair for support. When you first start doing lunges, you might not be able to lower yourself so your forward knee is at about 90 degrees. Don’t force it. As the supporting muscles and your knee become stronger, you’ll be able to dip lower. Also, the knee of your forward leg should not protrude in front of your toes. During a lunge, try to keep your upper body as erect as possible because leaning forward puts extra stress on your weakened knee. A simple technique to keep your body as erect as possible during the exercise is to keep your abdominal muscles tightened.
Occasional knee pain is quite common because the knee is very vulnerable to injury due to its intricate structure. However, if you’ve been suffering from knee pain and weakness for a prolonged period, or experience other symptoms such as swelling or stiffness, or your knee locks during movement, seek medical advice. These symptoms may signal a more serious problem such as osteoarthritis, a torn ligament or meniscus.