Building Lower Body Strength & Stability (The Knee)

High Performance
Leg day.
This week we are discussing on building lower body strength and stability, specifically analyzing how your knees play an important role in developing resiliency, while creating a stable environment to minimize risk of injury.
Usually, I like to look at movement in complete throughout the kinetic chain, where it may be possible that one segment may affect another, which in turn may affect a different area and create chains of impairments throughout the body. These impairments throughout the body can be spotted usually under loaded exercises, as well as unloaded movement. Developing a program to where these impairments are assessed and reverted would be ideal in building a strong movement foundation and evolving your training. This also concurs minimal risk of injury, from a standpoint of movement compensation.
When we look at the knee, we are usually engaging with the quadriceps. The quadriceps help extend the knee, therefore being engaged in movements such as running, squatting, or even kicking. These muscles are crucial in supporting the knee. This brings together the idea that strengthening the quadriceps, may assist with previous or current issues an individual may have with their knees.
There are numerous quadricep-dominant exercises one can engage on, in different planes of motion, and even throughout different forms of contact with the ground. Depending on a where an individual stands in their journey, as well as how strong of a foundational base they may possess, will determine which of these exercises fit them best. Whether on two legs, one leg, or in an asymmetrical stance, each of these positions have their individual benefits to building strength and stability.
When discussing a bi-lateral stance, we are talking over movements such as the squat. There are various different forms of the squat, whether a goblet squat, front squat, or a back squat. These exercises may also branch out and be specifically considered depending on individual’s level of training, their goals, and their movement foundation. A goblet squat, just like a barbell front squat, may produce more stress on the core, as well as the quadricep muscles, when comparing it to an exercise like a back squat. Usually, this may be where to start, before advancing into a back squat which can be more taxing on the hips and require a significant amount of core strength and stability to avoid injury.
Unilateral, or a single-leg stance, may be beneficial for developing stability in the knee and hips. Exercises in this position may help with decreasing risk of injury and may be advantageous to not only to performance athletes, but also to the elderly. Establishing a program that contains exercises such as 1-foot jumps, pistol squats, or step downs may be of use. These exercises can spot and target any imbalances an individual might have from previous Injuries, as well as ensuring proper hip-knee-ankle alignment. Usually, weak hip abductors may affect knee alignment by bringing the knee into “valgus” when performing single leg movements.
Asymmetrical motions refers to when both feet are in contact with the ground, but not in symmetry. This implies that your feet are not necessarily aligned exactly the same. Asymmetrical motions can be a precursor to unilateral movements, as it may require less stability in the hip-knee-ankle relationship, compared to that of a unilateral exercise, such as a  pistol squat. Asymmetrical motions may be viewed as dynamic, or static. This refers to if the individual is in motion during the exercise, or if they are in a fixed position. Examples of asymmetrical movements may be split squats or lunges. Split squats usually can be classified as a static asymmetrical pattern, while lunges are dynamic. Dynamic asymmetrical patterns may provide more stress to the body, as it requires proper activation of the Lumbo-Pelvic hip complex (the core), as well as maintaining proper hip-knee-ankle alignment, while in motion.
In conclusion, it is recommended to establish a training program where knee-dominant bi-lateral, uni-lateral, and asymmetrical motions are all included to build strength and stability in different patterns as well as minimize risk of injury. It is also important to take in account what movements you or another individual is prepared to engage in according to your movement foundation. This suggests that if you are training with a friend, to ensure both parties possess similar skillsets.
Remember to always consult with physician or primary care doctor prior to engaging in physical activity of any kind.

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