Updated: May 2, 2020
If there is one thing I know about it is building strong knees.
Look at the picture above. This is me performing Aerial Cradle. Aerial Cradle involves catching, swinging and throwing people from a suspended platform. Go look it up on Youtube, You'll see what i mean when i say, you need insanely strong knee and ankle joints to perform this safely.
After all, all the power comes from the quads forcing the back of the knee joint into a small metal bar!
So yes I know a lot about building strong knees and guess what?
Most of what you understand about the proper way to train safely without injuring your knees is wrong.
First things first.
The knee is a joint with a hell of a lot more range of motion than you think.
It isn't just a hinge joint, it has the ability to move laterally as well.
If it was just a simple hinge joint, no one would be getting injured because everyone would be keeping the knees behind the toes when squatting and no one would ever need to change direction at speed or under load.
The knee joint, along with the foot takes a serious amount of battering. These two joints along with the hips are truly the foot soldiers of your movement.
From jumping to changing direction or even walking down some steps. The amount of signals being sent between these three joints and the brain is staggering.
If you only hit the squat rack or the leg extension etc, you are only strengthening your knee in that one plane of motion. So what do you think is going to happen to it when you get a hard shove on the pitch or you trip over that top step?
Yup. You're going to be screwed because the joint can't cope with the unexpected movement and will give.
If you don't condition the joint fully, when the unexpected happens and you have to brace or move quickly in and unfamiliar way the joint can handle it. If the joint is weak the force is going to take the easiest route. And by easiest I mean weakest.
Im going to talk you through three little mottos I have for training the knee joint, but they can be applied to any joint.
Make the unfamiliar familiar.
All happy joints come in threes.
Combined ROM equals functional ROM.
You have to make the unfamiliar familiar. Its is the only way to condition the joint AND the nervous system so that when the unexpected does happen, and it will at some point, Your body can handle it and adjust and process. You don't need long dedicated sessions either. You just need one or two good varying exercises tacked onto the end of your leg day for example. The key is to build up gradually. You can't fire straight into it, it is about building that end range conditioning.
All happy joints come in threes so don't for a second think the knee joint functions independently of it neighbouring joints.
The same way a triangle isn't one point.
The ankle, knee and hip should be looked at as one unit not separate structures as they inform and impact each others movement.
If you have a restriction or a problem in any of these areas the other two will compensate the best they can until they can't any longer and you end up injured. You need to start looking at the body as a unit not as a collection of separate areas!
Combined ROM equals functional ROM because in real life, just as they are all connected, the ROM in each joint will influence TOGETHER your ability to get into and out of positions or movements.
Yes you can test a joints individual ROM in a test setting and that ca give you some useful indicators but in real life its just not like that.
In real life it's the combined range of motion of all the joints that contribute to the main joint movement without excessive compensation.
For example. If you can't move at your ankle or hip you'll never get into a deep squat no matter how well you knees move. Once again. They are a unit in real life.
Remember these three mottos and check out our Youtube video here for some good knee strengthening exercises in all planes of motion.
Now seriously, go and check out some Aerial Cradle on Youtube.