Save Your Knees

It’s an inevitable fact of life: the older you get, the more likely you are to develop knee problems. More than anything else, it’s because your knees take an almost constant beating. There’s really no way of avoiding it.

Because the knee joint is so complex, and because so many things can go wrong, we’re going to focus on a very specific type of knee problem.

The technical term is ugly: Chondromalacia Patella. That’s Latin & Greek for, “bad cartilage behind the knee cap.” The knee cap, also known as the patella, serves as a way station for your quad. It disperses the force that your quad generates so its tendon doesn’t rip away from your shin.

The undersurface is lined with cartilage so it can glide smoothly. Chronically tight quads make the patella track too closely to the rest of the joint. The result is grinding, pain, and eventually destruction of the cartilage. Obviously, stretching your quads can reduce this problem. Seeing your friendly neighborhood Active Release® provider to breakup scar tissue in the quads also helps.

There’s one more thing you can do: Stay off the Leg Extension machine.
Oh, but how I do detest the Leg Extension machine.

Wanna know why? Briefly, when you sit on the leg extension machine, and load your foot with weight, you create tremendous shearing forces on your knee. As you raise and lower the weight, you pull your knee cap against the rest of the joint as tightly as is physically possible, grinding away at the cartilage. One rep is no problem. A few sets? No biggie. Years of using this ridiculous contraption will add up to an arthritic disaster.

Here’s a substitute. Of course, clear it with your doctor first. The Yoga Style Split Squat makes your front leg’s quad work hard in a safe and functional way.

This is an excellent alternative to seated leg extensions. First, figure out your stance. If you’ve never done any yoga, or if you’re not particularly flexible, this will challenge your groin muscles, so consider yourself warned.

Get down into a “warrior” yoga pose to space your legs properly. If you don’t know what that is, check the photo:

Yoga warrior pose top position
Top position
Yoga warrior pose bottom position
Bottom: Thigh parallel to floor
  • Without holding any weights, place your back foot at a 45 degree angle to the front one. The back foot’s arch should face the front foot’s heel.
  • Your front foot should be far enough forward so that when you go down, the knee doesn’t flex past 90 degrees.

Ok, now that you’ve figured out what a Yoga warrior looks like, you’re ready for weights.

  • Grab a couple of light dumbbells. Hold them with straight arms at your sides.
  • Begin descending by moving your butt forward and toward the floor.
    Top position
    Top position
  • Go down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
  • Come to a full stop at the bottom. Absolutely no bouncing!
    Establish control at the bottom
    Establish control at the bottom
  • Once you’ve established your balance the bottom position, use the quad of the front leg to push yourself back up.
    Use your front-leg quad to push up
    Use your front-leg quad to push up
  • At the end of the set, get out of the split position by stepping with your back foot.

Obviously, do a set with one foot forward, then do the next set with the other foot forward. Move slowly, deliberately, and come to a full stop at the top and bottom of each rep. Prepare for soreness the next day, especially in the groin muscles.

By keeping your feet on the floor, you compress the knee joint. This protects it. The balance issue makes bouncing at the bottom of the rep difficult, another knee saver.

Try doing 3 or 4 sets of 8-12 reps with each leg. Stay away from the leg extension machine, and prepare for a long life with happier knees. Enjoy.

top position side
bottom position side
bottom position front
Top Position (front and side)
bottom position front
Bottom Position (front and side)