Tennis Knee Strengthening Exercises

One of the most common reasons for knee pain is when the knee does not track correctly. This is an example I use to explain it - picture a door hinge that is missing a few screws, this will cause the door to be misaligned, the door will start to rub, jam and not close properly. This is similar to what happens to the knee. We lose functionality of the knee joint if it is not tracking correctly. This can lead to a build-up of muscle tension and connective tissue issues (Tendonitis, damaged ligaments) 

If you have been injured before you know how it feels walking around with pain in your body. What generally happens if you are injured, is that we start to compensate, using other body parts more, walking differently etc. This causes us to create faulty or dysfunctional movement patterns and building up tension in muscle in other areas. The knee joint is one of the main joints that will cause this to happen. Most people who experience knee pain will end up with back pain due to them over compensating on the other leg.

Today I want to show you some tennis knee strengthening exercises and explain to you some ways to elevate one of the most common causes of knee pain and pain in the anterior knee (front of the knee)

In some cases, this is due to soft-tissue imbalances between the stronger/tighter lateral (side of the leg) knee structures and the weaker/inhibited medial (inside of the leg) knee structures (the VMO).

Two common reason for this are;

  1. Muscle imbalances which pull the knee out of alignment. This causes the knee to lose correct functionality. A result of this is tension build up in muscles trying to stabilise and protect the knee joint. Inflammation to the surrounding area (Knee joint) will also occur, due to the knee not working the way it is intended to. In this scenario what is needed is a combination of a few things. One of them is strengthening certain areas. It is important to strengthen the gluteal and the vastus medialis. Part of the role of these two areas is to help stabilise and support the knee joint. These two areas are typically weak with players who have knee issues. In my video I will show you how to target these two areas, using simple strengthening techniques.
  2. Tightness of the Iliotibial Band (ITB). The ITB is a thick band of tissue (fascia) that begins at the iliac crest in the pelvis, the tibia, crossing both the hip and knee joints (runs down the side of your leg between your hip and your knee)

Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury that occurs when there is inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial band when it travels back and forth, over the lateral part of the knee. This is a common issue for tennis players. Players can be playing for years and not realise they have this going on. It causes you to lose stability and mobility of the knee joint. The biggest concern carrying too much tension through this area is how it affects the way your knee tracks, it can pull your knee laterally. Treatment for this is to release the ITB tension. The best way to do this is to use a foam roller (You can check it out in the video) It can be painful but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Regular foam rolling exercises will help in releasing tension in the myofascial system (muscle and fascia). It helps in bringing muscles back to original length, takes pressure away from joints and prevents injuries.

Here are some tips on how to alleviate and prevent this happening;

  1. Foam rolling lateral aspects (Iliotibial Band and vastus lateralis)
  2. Improve quad strength (in particular VMO) and activating Vastus Medialis prior to exercise.
  3. Improving motor control and strength in the Gluteals. 

To get more information on how to release and strengthen around the knee joint watch the tennis knee strengthening exercises video below.

Please note these are general exercises only.

Not all knee problems are the same and do require a thorough assessment to ensure an appropriate program is used.

  1. Foam Rolling the Iliotibial Band– Lay on your side on a foam roller, working through the area between your knee and hip. Roll for 1-2 minutes every second day.
  2. Vastus Medialis Strengthening- Extended your lower leg and drop your foot to the side, whilst squeezing the VMO. Hold for 10 sec. Do 10 sets, with 30 sec rest between sets. Do every second day.
  3. Side Band Gluteal Walks – Place an ankle band around your feet. Laterally walk 10 steps each direction, until you feel the muscle is fatigued (strong burn in the gluteal) 3 sets, with 30sec rest between sets. Do every second day.

There is no magic quick fix for Tennis knee pain. Seeking treatment and following a rehabilitation plan is the best option. As with all injuries, prevention is the best cure. Keeping your body long and strong will help prepare it for practice and play. Combined with following an injury prevention program (shoulder, wrist, elbow, knee and ankle stability) is your best bet for a long injury free career.

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