Knees get some of the hardest impact during a great run. To avoid damaging the ligaments around your knees, there are exercises and conditioning training to target your knees specifically! When you run, you really work the Iliotibial (IT) band, which is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin and attaches to the knee to help stabilize and move the joint.
Keep your IT band and knees out of harm’s way and yourself on the running path with the following exercises and stretches. You can do them at any time, but it is recommended to do them at least three times per week.
To support the knee join—thigh strengthening
Thigh Contractions: Sitting in a chair with your back straight and both feet planted on the ground at 90 degree angles, lift one leg straight out in front of you then bend it back to the original position. Do 20-30 reps on each leg.
Straight Leg Raises: In the same position as the previous exercise, keep your leg straight out in front of you and lift up and down with your hands holding the sides of the chair.
To prevent strain on the IT band—ful let, hip and glute strengthening
Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold your arms out in front of you, slightly bend the knees, squat down making sure that your knees don’t go over your toes, and flex your thigh muscles as you come up. Try 25-35 reps.
Standing Lunges: Stand in a split-leg stance with one foot behind the other, and then, bending your knees, lower yourself down until your legs are at 90-degree angles. Rise up and repeat, switching legs after 20-25 reps.
Side Leg Raises: For strong hip abductors, lay on your side with your elbow on the ground. Lift the top leg about 12 inches off the ground and then bring it back to the top of your stationary leg. Do 15-30 reps on each side, depending on your endurance level and workout routine.
Hip lift: Balancing on your right foot with your right hand against the wall, bend your left leg at a 90 degree angle, raise it and drop your left hip, letting your leg fall backwards. Keep your opposite leg straight. You’ll feel this one in your glutes as well. Try 15-25 reps on each side.
To prevent friction on the IT band—stretches
Runner’s Lunge: Get in plank position then bring one foot up to the outside of your left hand. Hold for 10 seconds then switch legs. Repeat four times on each leg for a good hamstring and hip stretch.
Side Stretch: Standing, cross your right foot over your left and with your arms stretched straight overhead, and lean your body to the right. Lean as far as you can without bending your knees. Repeat on the opposite side.
Adapted from Runpeer.com