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The key to stability rests in your knees

May. 18, 2012 - 06:49PM   |   Last Updated: May. 18, 2012 - 06:49PM  |  
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About the author

Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla.

Young knees, old knees, tired knees, healthy knees, replacement knees — it doesn't matter. Your knees are an often overlooked but essential component for overall physical fitness, so be sure your workout targets these joints to improve your stability and stamina.

The following simple exercise fits the bill:

Step 1: Place a mark about 1 foot directly in front of you on the ground. Lightly hold onto a support, if you require balance. Stand with your back straight and your core engaged.

To engage your core, imagine that you have a large egg in your stomach. Instead of trying to crush the egg by tightening your muscles as hard as you can, cushion and surround the egg with your muscles. If you just tighten your core, you usually engage only your side and possibly your front core muscles. The other way makes you focus on your entire core. You will find that you lift your pelvis muscles a bit to support the bottom of the imaginary "egg," and you will even discover that your back muscles will come into play.

Step 2: Take one leg and point your toes up, with your heel about an inch above the ground. This position will move the foot of your extended leg about 3 inches in front of the leg you will be bending. The heel of your extended leg must maintain that small clearance above the ground.

Step 3: Keeping your body straight and your core engaged, perform a single leg squat, keeping that 1-inch clearance until the heel of your foot on your extended leg hits the mark. As you perform the squat, it is critical that you keep your bent knee directly in line with your foot. If your knee tracks to the outside or the inside, have a partner put a strap around your leg just above the knee and gently pull in the opposite direction of how the knee moves. Do five to 10 reps on each leg.

Progressions will place a target 45 degrees to each side of center. The execution remains the same. You can add targets until you have made a 360-degree compass. When you move behind your body line, change your foot position so that your toe is an inch above the ground. And remember: more targets, fewer reps — and have fun.

In the next column, I will continue our discussion on dynamic knee stabilization and how you can strengthen your whole body by targeting this area. And as always, if you have specific fitness questions, feel free to drop me a line.

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