Nearly half of all sports injuries are knee injuries. They can sideline you for weeks or months at a time. The good news? Research shows a combination of strength, balance, and plyometric exercises can reduce the risk of knee injuries. Physical therapists at Connecticut Children’s Elite Sports Medicine division identified six such exercises to try. Sophia, one of our patients, demonstrates the exercises below.
1. Jump squat
Start with feet shoulder-width apart. Lower into a squat, and then jump up, pushing through the floor as hard as you can. To start the jump movement, quickly raise your hands from your sides toward the ceiling. Land quietly back in a squat. Complete 2 sets with 10 repetitions in each set.
Tip: Keep knees and toes pointing straight ahead.
2. Side plank with clamshell
Lie on side, with supporting elbow directly under the shoulder and supporting knee and ankle in contact with the floor. Bend both knees 90 degrees. Lift hips until your top shoulder, hip, and knee are aligned. While maintaining that position, slowly lift the top knee toward the ceiling and lower. Complete 2 sets with 10 repetitions in each set. Then, switch sides and complete 2 more sets.
Tip: Keep head facing forward and top shoulder and hip facing the ceiling.
3. Rear-foot elevated split squat
With tall posture, start with a wide, staggered stance. Elevate your back foot on a chair. Slowly lower rear knee toward the floor and bend the front knee to about 90 degrees. Push front heel through the floor and back toes through the chair to return to start position. Complete 2 sets with 10 repetitions in each set. Then, switch sides and complete 2 more sets.
Tip: Keep back flat and front knee and toes pointing straight ahead.
4. Single-leg deadlift
With tall posture, stand on one leg with knee unlocked. Hinge forward at the hips, slowly bringing the trunk toward the floor and lifting the other leg behind you. Return to start. Complete 2 sets with 10 repetitions in each set. Then, switch sides and complete 2 more sets.
Tip: Keep back flat, toes pointed straight ahead, and knee unlocked throughout the motion.
5. Nordic curls
Start in a tall kneeling position on a soft surface with a partner firmly holding at the ankles. Slowly lean forward. Continue easing your trunk toward the floor as long as you can control. Use arms to slowly lower through the remaining motion, ending in a push up position. Use hands to push off and return to the tall kneeling position. Complete 2 sets with 10 repetitions in each set.
Tip: Keep the body in a straight line, from knees to head. Don’t hinge at the hips.
6. Standing single leg hip abduction isometric
With tall posture, stand on one leg with knee unlocked (outside leg) next to a wall with opposite knee bent 90 degrees and resting against a small ball on the wall. Gently push your inner knee into the ball. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 5 times. Be sure to perform on both legs.
Tip: Keep your head and chest high and your back flat. Make sure the toes on your outer leg point forward.