Your knees are valuable assets, especially if your chosen lifestyle includes sport participation, and workouts so intense they would make your husband cry. Keeping your knees strong, stable and in proper alignment requires an exercise program that targets the muscles surrounding them. Many of these exercises can be performed with the exercise apparatus known as the body bar.
About the Body Bar
A body bar is a steel exercise bar covered with a rubber grip. The bars range in weight from 3 to 36 pounds, and facilitate a variety of exercises for all parts of the body. The body bar has the shape and length of a barbell. It shares many of the benefits of barbell training, without the safety issues associated with adding plates to the bar. These weighted bars are cost effective. It pays to keep a set at home, for those days that you don't feel like listening to the grunts or dealing with the sweaty benches in the weight room.
Muscles Supporting Your Knees
A knee strengthening program must target your hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors or inner thighs, and abductors or outer thighs. Your hamstrings bend your knees, while your quadriceps straighten them. Likewise, your adductors move your leg toward the midline of your body, and your adductors move your leg away from your center. Despite their isolated actions, these muscles work as a coordinated unit in most functional activities. Exercises that target more than one muscle group simultaneously are called compound exercises. Adding the body bar to these exercises makes them more effective.
Most compound exercises fall into the closed chain category. Examples include squats and lunges, which actively engage your hamstrings, quads and glutes, while your abductor and adductors act as knee stabilizers. The term closed chain implies that your thigh bone moves upon a stable shin bone, with your foot in a fixed position on the ground or on a platform. Closed chain exercises create compression forces, which enhance joint stability and help you maintain proper knee alignment.
Closed Chain Examples
The body bar supports a variety of closed chain knee strengthening exercises. Adding the body bar to your squat and lunge routine -- either by holding it across your chest or resting it in your shoulders -- increases compression forces and contributes to knee stability. Include exercises such as the body bar dead lift, which targets the hamstrings, and the plie squat, which works your adductors. These exercises help your knees maintain proper alignment and protect you from serious injuries.
Outsmarting the Terrible Triad
The terrible triad is not an item on the menu at a Chinese restaurant. It's a knee injury that involves a tear of your ACL, MCL and medial meniscus. Unfortunately, the terrible triad is common among female athletes. While closed chain exercises should make up most of your knee strengthening program, preventing this injury might involve giving your hamstrings and adductors some extra TLC. Body bar isolation exercises such as standing hamstring curls and side-lying abductor and adductor lifts effectively work these muscles.
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