Consider this: Since your knees are the most crucial joint in your legs, their stability and overall strength contribute to smooth-running gams that will, well, take you anywhere you need to go.
To put it another way: According to Jeff Brannigan, program director at Stretch*d in New York, a stable knee is one in which all ligaments and associated muscle groups are intact, healthy, and solid enough to sustain body weight through movements and exercise.
Your knees, more than any other joint in your body, need the most stability because you use them for almost every move you take, making them the most vulnerable to injury. The knee is already prone to damage, but when the joint’s integrity is weakened, the likelihood of injury increases dramatically.
Not that all motions are equally taxing on the knees. Brannigan points out that when the knee moves in non-natural planes of motion, it is susceptible. For example, when you’re walking, but not so much when you’re going side to side.
During activities that involve a lot of lateral or side-to-side movement, the knee is especially vulnerable. The joint flexes, or bends, and stretches naturally, but rotation is limited.
Walking and running, for example, are more natural than sports like soccer or basketball, which entail a lot of rapid bursts of movement and cutting back and forth on the field or court. That’s why you learn of so many professional athletes suffering from knee injuries.
However, there are some things you can do to ensure that your knee joints are prepared and ready to move—Brannigan recommends starting with easy, fundamental movements.
Before progressing to more advanced exercises, it’s good to start with fundamental exercises that can support the joint structurally. Continue scrolling to see what you can do.
How to improve your knee stability
1. Knee extension
All you have to do is sit on an elevated surface with your knees at the edge and your legs hanging down. Then literally straighten the knee from its bent position. If you’ve mastered that, consider adding weight or resistance—but start with a manageable weight to avoid overworking the joint.
It’s a good idea to isolate the vastus medialis in the lower quadriceps. The muscle here should feel thick and strong if you stretch the knee straight and keep the position.
2. Single-leg balance
Begin by standing on one leg and maintaining for 30 to 60 seconds; if that’s too difficult, use a cushion or a Bosu ball at the gym. The foot’s weakness can help strengthen muscles in the foot, ankle, and lower leg, which will help provide a more substantial base for the knee; you can increase the difficulty by carrying a lightweight with your hand.
3. Single-leg step up
A stair or other kind of platform at your side is needed for this exercise. Place your closer foot on the platform and raise your body weight with that leg. Make sure it’s at a comfortable height so you can stand upright, which will strengthen your leg muscles while still supporting your knee. You can also increase the resistance by adding weights to your sides.
For more in-depth study and advanced exercise to generally improve your knee health, we recommend that you read our article on knee strengthening exercises.