When you think of calisthenics you probably think of those ridiculous exercises you had to do at the beginning of gym class -- jumping jacks, toe touches and the dreaded pushup in front of the whole class. But calisthenics are so much more than mere warm-up exercises, they can help improve flexibility and even increase strength in the major muscle groups and joints. Several calisthenics moves can be done on a regular basis to strengthen your knees and lower body muscles.
Benefits of Calisthenics
Calisthenics are about as basic as you can get when it comes to exercise -- they require little or no extra equipment and use only your body weight for resistance. Calisthenics allow you to move in ways you would naturally move rather than forcing an uncomfortable posture or stance like some weight exercises require. Not only are they efficient and inexpensive to perform, but they can also be done just about anywhere. So, when you find yourself being unproductive at work, such as when you're checking your social media page, get up from your desk and do a few calisthenics to get those knees strong and blood pumping.
Air, or body weight, squats are a basic calisthenic exercise that targets your glutes and quadriceps, which, when weak, can keep your knee caps from tracking correctly. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, pull your belly in, then bend your hips and knees to lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Pay attention to your knees so they don't pass in front of your toes. Return to standing. Do 15 to 30 of these each time you do a calisthenics workout. For an extra challenge, do them as fast as you can.
Lunges effectively strengthen the knees by working several muscle groups that support the joint. To get the most out of this calisthenic exercise, do lunges in multiple directions. For example, perform a forward lunge by taking a large step forward then lowering toward the floor until your front knee reaches 90 degrees. Push off from your heel to return to standing then immediately take a large step to the side with the same leg. Lunge to the side until your knee hits 90 degrees, then return to standing. Repeat the lunge to the rear with the same leg. After you've completed one repetition by lunging in all three directions with one leg, do it with the other leg. Aim for 10 to 20 repetitions with each leg.
The only extra piece of equipment you may need for this calisthenic exercise is a good sports bra -- there's a bit of impact. Lateral bounds help strengthen your thighs and calves, both of which contribute to strong knees, and will also improve the stability of your knees. Stand with your legs slightly apart then jump as far as you can to the right, landing on your right leg with a "soft" knee. Immediately jump to the left, landing on your left leg. Continue to jump back and forth while trying to increase the distance you cover with each jump. Keep this up for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as you can.
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.