Warm-up stretches are the foundation of flexibility and strength training and a base on which injury prevention depends. Stiff, inflexible tissues are much more likely to sustain an injury. But some people even overdo stretching–working at it too long or too hard–and injure themselves, all the while having only the best intentions. Stretching should not be a competitive sport.
But stretching is important because even muscle training, like negative factors such as aging or injury, cause muscles to tighten, and this change has to be counterbalanced with stretching. Because the term "strength training" conjures up images of muscle-bound weight lifters, it seems odd to say that it begins with learning to relax. But it does.
Relaxation exercises release tension and allow muscles to stretch. With a combination of relaxation and stretching comes the flexibility that permits a full range of motion at your knees and other joints. Having this full range of motion and the strengthened muscles around the joints not only enhances performance but also provides protection from injury in sports. Furthermore, muscle strengthening improves posture, improving carriage and buffering the threat of back pain. For greater knee strength, try the following exercises: the quad wall sit, hamstring curl, hip flexor or extensor, hip adduction and abduction, and hip extension.
Quad wall sit. This is like sitting in a chair but without the chair. With your feet away from the wall, lean against the wall, back flat. Slide down until knees are flexed and thighs are parallel to the floor. Lower legs should be straight up and down.
Hamstring curls. Using ankle weights, bend knee and lift leg behind. Repeat on the other side.
Hip flexor or extensor. With weight on ankle, lift leg behind, keeping the leg straight. Repeat with other leg. To balance muscles, perform the leg lifts forward, lifting toes toward ceiling.
Hip adduction and abduction. This exercise requires a stretchable band attached to the wall. Stand with side to the wall. Put band on ankle nearest wall, move leg nearest wall across other leg, keeping back straight and leg straight (left). Turn around and repeat on other side. To balance opposing muscles, keep band on ankle and move outside leg away from wall (right). Turn around and repeat on the other side.
Hip extension. The hip extension exercise should be performed without arching the back. Lie with trunk on table, legs extended to ground at table′s edge. Raise legs, holding on to table, until back is straight and legs parallel to floor.
This is a section from Dr. Jack E, Jensen’s book The One Stop Knee Shop. Read the next section Prevention.