By Barbara Wintroub, Retroft Pilates
Do you need new knees or just new exercises to protect the ones you have?
As we age, the shelf life of our body parts begins to become a factor. Normal wear and tear happens, but if you play sports, the wear and tear happens more quickly.
Knees are just two bones balanced on top of each other with muscles (quads/hamstrings/IT band) to protect them. As a result, your knees are dependent on the flexibility and strength of your quads and hamstrings. If you exercise quadriceps more than your hamstrings, you will be out of balance and your knees suffer the effects. The job of the IT Band (Illiotibial Band) is to protect your knees as you move laterally across the court. But there are other factors affecting the strength and life of your knees.
Let’s say you are tall. You are at a disadvantage because your knees have to open more for you to bend over to garden, pick up stuff or play pickleball. Knees have a higher risk of injury the more they open and close.
If your feet don’t hit the ground evenly because of a condition called pronation or supination, then your knees are out of balance and wear unevenly. Having the bones in your feet aligned correctly promotes correct bone balancing of your knees.
Look at your bare Pronation/Supinationfeet or have a podiatrist watch you walk to see if this is a problem. Bringing the ground up to your feet correctly takes a shoe insert or orthotics. You can buy them off the shelf or have them made specifically for your feet. My feet are so flat even the military would reject me. I wear heavy duty orthotics all day to protect my knees. While we’re talking about feet, let me stress the importance of shoe types. Do not wear running shoes to play pickleball; they have no lateral support for your knees. Wear a good solid tennis shoe.
Many pickleball players I have encountered already have a knee problem or have had a knee replacement. Does the following exercise regimen apply for both preventative care as well as post rehab work? Absolutely! Here is a plan to start you on your way to better knee health.
Strengthening for Hamstrings and Buns is done on a chair.
If you sit a lot during the day you probably have mushy buns. Playing pickleball requires a strong back side. That means buns of steel and hamstring strength.
Strengthening for Quads is done against a wall.
fitness position 3
– Stand with upper and lower back against a wall, feet hip width apart and a comfortable distance from the wall. Slowly lower body to a comfortable squat position. Hold for a count of 10 or longer if possible. Slide up the wall to rest then repeat the exercise 8-12 times.
Because pickleball requires lots of side to side shifts, your IT bands get overly tight, which causes pain on the outside of your knees. If you have had knee surgery, your knee structure has been altered, so it is imperative to keep the IT Bands stretched.
– Place your right foot behind your left foot, equal weight on both feet. Hold on to the wall with left hand, left arm straight, bend at the waist to the left side with right hand over your head. This stretches the right IT Band (actually the belly of the muscle that attaches at your waist). Hold for a count of 10, rest then repeat 8-10 times. Change feet with left behind right foot and repeat exercise.