"The knees are the first thing to go" is a common saying among athletes. This is especially true for women, whose wider pelvis creates what is known as a high "Q angle," thereby putting stress on the knee joint. To add insult to injury, women tend to have less strength than men in the muscles that help stabilize the knee joint. There is good news though. The exercises you do to stabilize the knee joint have the side effect of toning your thighs and buttocks, improving the way you look in bathing suits or shorts.
Muscles Around the Knees
There are two major groups of muscles that stabilize the knee, the quadriceps, the large muscles on the top of your thighs, and the hamstrings, the muscles running along the bottom of your thighs. The thigh abductors and adductors also contribute side-to-side stability. To develop strong and flexible knees, you must exercise all of these muscle groups.
Many women with desk jobs worry about developing "blogger's butt" or "secretary spread," but actually your desk chair can become an exercise station for strengthening your knees. As you sit, straighten one leg and do leg and ankle circles and then repeat with the other leg. Work your quadriceps by bending and straightening your legs at the knee and develop thigh adductors by squeezing your thighs together.
Strengthening Your Knees
Strengthen your knees by exercising leg muscles against resistance. To exercise leg muscles at home, start with seated straight leg raises and standing leg extensions and curls with light ankle weights. If your knees are pain-free, progress to squats, lunges and side lunges, adding resistance bands or dumbbells for an extra challenge. At the gym, machines designed to strengthen the muscle groups around the knee include the leg press, leg extension, leg curl, thigh abductor and thigh adductor machines.
Tight leg muscles can cause knee problems, but stretching will help make them more flexible. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and reach for your toes to stretch your hamstrings. Move your legs apart into a V-shape and lean forward to stretch inner thighs. While standing up on one foot with the knee of the other leg pointed down, hold your ankle and draw your working foot up to your buttocks for a quadriceps stretch. To stretch the outer thigh, sit in a chair with one foot on the floor and the ankle of the other foot crossed over the thigh of the opposite leg; lean forward until you feel a stretch in the outer thigh.
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.