Breaststroke swimmers are susceptible to the injury commonly known as "swimmer's knee." The whip kick used during the breaststroke to propel the swimmer forward in the water is the cause of such injury, because of the pressure the kick places on the knee ligaments. If you experience tenderness or pain during or after a swim, consult your doctor. To prevent swimmer's knee, practice exercises that strengthen the ligaments of your knee and the muscles surrounding this joint.
Your quadriceps are located at the front of your leg, just above your knee. This muscle group plays an important part in stabilizing the knee, and strengthening these muscles provides support for your knee during the breaststroke. Perform leg lifts to target this muscle group. Lie on the ground on your back and bend your right leg, bringing your right foot close to your body. Keeping your right foot on the floor and your left leg extended in front of you, engage your quads and lift the extended leg from the floor a few inches. Hold for five counts and slowly return the leg to the ground. Do two sets of 8 to 12 reps, alternating legs.
Squats also work your quadriceps, strengthening your knee and protecting it from undue strain. Wall squats can be performed almost anywhere there is a wall. Stand with your back to the wall with your head and hips touching it. Walk your feet out from the wall, about 2 feet. Slowly lower your hips into a sitting position against the wall. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle. Stay in this position for five seconds, then return to a standing position. Practice eight to 12 reps of this exercise.
The muscles located on the backs of your thighs are called your hamstrings. They help support your knee. Perform hamstring curls to strengthen these muscles to better support your knee. Stand behind a chair and bring one foot up toward your rear, just until your shin is parallel to the ground. Hold the position for five seconds, then return your leg to the ground. Perform eight to 12 repetitions, then switch legs.
To further work your hamstring muscles, practice step-ups. Stand behind a 6-inch platform. Step up on one foot, letting your other leg dangle. Then step both feet back to the floor. Step up with the opposite foot and repeat for 20 reps.
While the breaststroke itself can strengthen your knees and leg muscles, practicing the same repetitive motion can over-work your knees and cause strain. To avoid this, vary your strokes, rather than constantly practicing the breaststroke. Rest your knees if they begin to feel tender and sore. Before entering the water, warm up slowly and stretch. Squat down and slowly lower your rear toward your heels to begin to loosen connective tissue in your legs and knees before a swim.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.