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  1. #1
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    Strength training for knees?

    How do you work those muscles that help to strengthen the knees? The knees are an important part of cycling, as will all other parts. I'm not going to take any risks and I am going to strengthen my knees now. However, I have no idea how and what exercises to do. Please help me and help everyone else who wants to know about it.

  2. #2
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oxologic
    How do you work those muscles that help to strengthen the knees? The knees are an important part of cycling, as will all other parts. I'm not going to take any risks and I am going to strengthen my knees now. However, I have no idea how and what exercises to do. Please help me and help everyone else who wants to know about it.
    Since we're really talking about the muscles (mainly the
    quads) stairs would be a good excercise. I just had both
    knees replaced and the quads were where most of the rehab
    efforts was focused as they are the main muscles that power
    the knees. Stairs are also good for the cardio system which
    is very much needed in cycling.

    As far as "strengthen the knees" go there is no way to make
    the bones stronger unless you feed them the minerals they
    need along with the stress of using the knee to keep the
    bones from atrophy. The cartilage inside the knee is what
    wears out from age and other abuse so if the surrounding
    tissue is strong and healthy you should be ok.

    DON'T smoke, eat correctly, excercise daily, and rest when
    needed. The old rules are still the best rules.

  3. #3
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Hi,
    You need to find a good gym. And because each part of your body is connected to the next...working just one spot can cause a problem.. Once you start working the quads, you threaten to overwhelm the hamstrings (very bad news). What you are really asking is .. 'How can I get in shape so my body can handle what I throw at it' Glad you asked. Start *very* slowly. First time in the gym after a while I hit the weight stations but leave the pin on the floor. I am just trying to get used to the new movement with minimal resistance. I don't do a lot of reps either. Make haste slowly.

    When your body adjusts to the new routine you can add weight quickly for a while; but that will slow down. I do one upper body workout and one lower body workout a week. It's enough.Don't ride the day after you do legs unless it's a very easy cruise. Do abs with arms and the back with legs. It can be hard learning to do the exercise perfectly. You can get hurt doing them wrong.Having gone thorugh this before, all I can do is to ask you to try it. You will like the results.
    Anyway, there are a lot of good exercises.
    For the core my 3 fave exercises are
    1) Roman Chair ( I love this one, but I do seated rows to build up my back for a month or more to get ready)
    2)Incline situps (don't forget the twist, and don't start on an incline unless you love pain. After a month on the gym, and after a few easy crunches, do a couple at a slight incline. You will cramp doing this exercise eventually, just walk it off.
    3)seated rows.....great exercise, but it works best if you're feet are at the same level as your butt (or close to it). You get that by sitting on the floor with your butt on a cushion. If you don't get them on the same level the hips don't get involved. You want to row from the hips. Most rowing stations put your feet too low.
    Legs....
    1)Leg extensions (do the last set working only the upper third of the extension to nail the Vastus Medialus. That is the one that protects your knees.)
    2)Leg curls. I try to keep the weight on extensions and curls close to each other.
    If the difference goes over 40-50% I'd lay off the leg extensions for a week, and do leg curls twice in that week.
    3)Mini-squats....you only want the knee to bend as much as you do when pedaling. Good form is vital. Keep your butt underneath your shoulders. You may need someone to train you for that.
    4)Calf raises...a surprisingly effective cycling exercise. Occasionally do a set lunging against the calf machine. You need a standing calf machine to do that. First week just do calf raises leaning on something so you aren't using all your weight as resistance. 2nd week you should be able to do a calf raise. After that you can use a calf machine.
    Arms....
    1)AN exercise that uses most of your range of motion in pushing. Pushups are limited in effectiveness. Dumbell press, most machines, are fine. You arms act as shock absorbers on a bike, so imitating that partial up and down movment would be good.
    2)I invented this one. Lean forward while holding a dumbell and place a hand on a bench or rack so you are at least at a 45 degree angle. Make a motion like you were drinking from a cup, but... keep the palm facing down, and the motion straight up and down just in front of, and to the side, of your face. Don't go higher than your chin. This gets front and rear delts; think of it as a core exercise.
    3)Dumbell rows (lean over a bench or use a machine). Use full range and it will use your back a little.
    4) Lat pulldown/close grip pull down. Do lats in one arm workout and then the close grip pulldown on the next workout.
    Last edited by late; 08-01-04 at 09:13 AM.

  4. #4
    Gerbil of Doom blonde's Avatar
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    These are just my opinions, but they work for me. The comment by late is a good place to start.

    The best exercise for overall body strength (as in lots of muscles used!) are deadlifts. You use calves, quads, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, lower back, trapezius, forearms... Also very good for getting your knees used to load. Just don't do them more than 3 times a week as the lower back takes a long time tor recover. Your back takes a hammering when you cycle and deadlifts have really helped me.

    My personal view on calf raise machines is that they aren't very effective - I find a much better cycling exercise is to use a leg press machine but place only the ball of your foot on it, thus you can extend both the thighs and then the calves with the caves taking load throughout the exercise.

    To start with try doing one legged squats with no weight - you will probably need to hold onto something for balance, take your time and only bend your leg as far as you are comfortable. When you can get your thigh horizontal and stand up easily then is the time to move onto two leg squats with weight.

    It's a mistake to do weights over a limited range of movement unless you have specific goals, you strengthen the knees much more doing a squat with 60kg and going to thighs horizontal than you do lifting 150kg to thighs at 45║.

    And do lots of abdominal work: not just sit-ups but also leg raises as they work very different muscles.

  5. #5
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Deadlifts are a great exercise. Like most middle aged people I don't
    do them. For a look at the ins and outs of deadlifts look here....
    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/catback.htm

    If you're calves are already strong from weightlifting, then of course
    it's not going to help. For me, and for most, they give the calf enough strength to hold the foot in the proper position. With a little more training, they seem to add a little zip.

    I should have said something about starting squats with no weight, and then adding weight and maybe extra range of motion as the training progresses.

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    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by late
    Deadlifts are a great exercise. Like most middle aged people I don't
    do them. For a look at the ins and outs of deadlifts look here....
    http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/catback.htm.
    At 64, I do deads with only light weights - same for squats. About 200 lbs for the squats, and 160 for the deads, or thereabouts. I find I can get my lower back strained, even using good technique.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  7. #7
    Gerbil of Doom blonde's Avatar
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    Just returning to calf raises and the suchlike for a moment, if you look at a slow motion video of somebody jumping what happens is that the calf contracts before the leg is fully straight - this is the biomechanically correct way to exercise. Thus on a calf raise machine it pays to have slightly bent knees (just slightly, say < 5║ ) to allow the calves to function properly. When I first started weigh training I managed to really hurt my hamstrings by doing calf raises with my legs locked out, not something I recommend!

    The weights DnvrFox mentions are good ones to aim for - any more than 150% of your bodyweight on squats and deadlifts and you start to enter the wonderful world of weightlifting proper which is fine but may not be beneficial for cycling! The risk of injury also increases rapidly beyond this point.

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    Junior Member jopatco's Avatar
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    Someone mentioned leg extensions. My Physical Therapist told me you should NOT to do leg extensions - they force the knee cap to slide UNDER PRESSURE, damaging the underlying cartiledge. There are other ways to work the quads.

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Jopatco,
    for some injuries that's prob true. My understanding is that
    the vastus medialus and the hamstrings are the muscles that primarily stabilise the knee. One of the best ways, snd the only way I know to directly nail the Vastus, is to do the upper 1/3 of a leg extension.

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    About the squats, it is pretty dangerous and risky. It might injure the knees from what I hear, and I read somewhere before that there's this athlete who does not find squats to be worth the risk, rather doing leg press. Is squats actually safe? And if not, what other exercises could be recommended? Would leg press do the job?

  11. #11
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    I used to have pretty bad knees -- I had to be very careful about bending them more than 90 degrees under load, etc -- but over the past couple of years I've strengthened them a lot.

    One thing I recommend is to do knee-bends with a limited range of motion. Start in a crouch, standing on the balls of your feet with your knees completely bent, then slowly, carefully straighten your knees about halfway, then go back down. Repeat.

    This shouldn't hurt your knees (except possibly for muscle fatigue/pain, but no joint pain). If it starts to hurt, take a break, or start with your knees partly extended.

    Also, if you have time, study capoeira (a Brazillian martial art). ;-)
    It involves a lot of crouching/squatting positions and is _great_ for your knees. I did it for about two years and that (combined with the knee-bend exercises above, which I learned from my capoeira teacher), have greatly improved my knee strength. Plus, you will learn to do cool acrobatics ;-)

    Also, I'd imagine cycling itself can be pretty good for your knees, if you spin fast and don't exert too much force on the pedals. If your knees start to hurt while riding, downshift (and/or raise your seat).

  12. #12
    Senior Member royalflash's Avatar
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    be VERY careful with your knees and legs- in my experience they are quite easy to injure and take a long time to recover if they ever do- I used to do squats with weights, leg extensions and leg curls and started having knee/leg problems. Even though I stopped training my legs the problems went on for years afterwards. I now just rely on cycling to keep my legs in shape- I still do weights but not leg exercises

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    I think that squats are arguably the best all-body exercise ever devised and can be particularly good for the knees when properly used. Squats work every major muscle of the upper leg and strengthen the support muscles and ligaments and tendons of the knee in addition to the quads. That said, care should be taken to avoid knee and back problems: 1) don't go below parallel, 2) always warm up and stretch, 3) keep your back straight and head up, 4) don't use too much weight, and 5) wrap your knees tightly and use a weight belt. Also, stop exercising if you feel pain. In addition to squats, leg raises are an outstanding exercise that places stress specifically on the lower quad and knee area. This will quickly build the muscles surrounding the knee, strengthening it. A lot of people advise againts overuse of these exercises but I find that, when done properly, my legs/knees feel much healthier, stronger, and pain free than when I'm not squatting. You'll want to include these in addition to your riding, not instead of-heavy squatters will often have large, blocky thighs that, while strong, can be cumbersum, cycling seems to build longer, leaner looking thighs that are more endurance oriented. I drop the leg workouts entirely when I'm riding regularly and pick them up again in my largely non-riding months (Dec, Jan, Feb). I like the way my legs look and feel as a result of cycling, but I miss the brute strength they used to have back in college when I was squatting 650 lbs and up. I can fit into my pants a lot better now though.
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    cycling is a great knee and surrounding muscle conditioner - keep the cadence high and the wind at your back ;-)

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