7 Simple Exercises To Prevent Pesky Knee Pain

Don’t let a twinge slow down your pedal stroke - or keep you out of the saddle.

Ashley Mateo |

Because cycling isn’t a high-impact sport, you’d be forgiven for thinking your knees are safe. But Tara Parsons, a USAC-certified cycling coach and Rapha Women’s Ambassador says she hears riders complaining about knee pain all the time. In fact, 23 percent of riders experience knee pain, according to a study of 116 professional cyclists – and you can bet that number is higher among amateurs.

“Cyclists are an obsessive bunch, and we often end up only riding our bikes – a lot,” says Parsons. “This, in combination with a lifestyle that involves sitting at desks all day, can cause the weakening of muscles of the trunk, such as the core, glutes, and hips.”

From there, it’s a domino effect: “When those muscles become weak or underused, they can become inactive or underactive. And when that happens, the muscles that you use a lot on the bike, such as the quads, end up over-compensating. This overcompensation causes poor knee tracking and poor alignment throughout the pedal stroke, which can lead to knee pain.” And that’s not even considering the stress you’re putting on your knees if your bike isn’t fit correctly or if you’re positioning in the saddle is out of whack.

Because the knee acts as a hinge between the hip and the ankle, it’s important to build up strength around the joint. Strength training off the bike is crucial to developing those muscles. Plus, “your weekly strengthening routine should involve not just strengthening and activation, but also foam rolling or other type of soft tissue manipulation and mobilisation” to keep your muscles in peak condition, says Parsons.

Not sure where to start? These knee strengthening exercises will help you pedal on pain-free.

How to use this list:
The exercises below are demonstrated by Noam Tamir, certified strength and conditioning specialist, so you can learn the proper form. Perform 2 to 3 sets of each exercise two times per week. You will need a resistance band loop, a Bosu trainer, and a medium weight. An exercise mat is optional.

1. Clamshell

Place a resistance band loop around legs just above the knee. Lie on your left side with knees bent, and ankles, knees, and hips stacked. Rest your head on left hand to avoid straining your neck and rest right hand on mat in front of you. Keeping your heels together, lift right knee toward ceiling as much as possible. Return to starting position. Complete 15 reps, then repeat on right side.

2. Glute Bridge

Lie faceup on the mat with a resistance band loop around your legs just above the knees and knees bent, heels close to butt, arms at sides. Contract glutes, and press into heels to lift hips up toward ceiling so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees as you simultaneously press knees out to keep them in line with hips and maintain tension on the band. Pause. Lower and repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

3. Reverse Lunge on a Bosu

Start standing on a Bosu trainer with hands on hips for balance. Take a big step back with left foot and lower into a lunge with right leg forming a 90-degree angle. Press through right heel to return left leg to start. Complete 10 reps, then repeat on other leg.

4. Resistance Band Lateral Walk

Place a band around ankles and stand with feet hip-width apart so band is taut. Lower into a micro squat, then step out to the left. Bring right foot in so feet are hip-width apart again; continue walking, taking 15 steps to the left before reversing to take 15 steps to the right, keeping the band taut the entire time.

5. Single-Leg Deadlift

Start standing and holding a kettlebell or medium weight in right hand. Shift weight onto left leg and micro bend left knee. Hinge at the hips as you lower weight to floor and extend right leg back behind you for balance. Continue lowering the weight until you are about parallel to the floor while keeping back straight. Return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps then switch sides.

6. Donkey Kick

Start on all fours with wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, toes tucked, and back flat. While keeping knee bent, lift right heel up as if to “stamp” your footprint on the ceiling. Return to starting position. Complete 15 reps then repeat on left side.

7. Bird Dog

Start on all fours with wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, toes tucked, and back flat. Extend right arm and left leg straight out until they’re parallel to the floor. Maintain a flat back, level hips, and focus on pulling your belly button toward your spine. Return to all fours, then raise left arm and right leg. Continue alternating for 90 seconds.

All images/videos: Julia Hembree Smith

This article originally appeared on bicycling.com.

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