Knees: Totally Essential and Easily Mangled
Knees take a lot of abuse, and they’re worth taking care of. Today, continuing in the “Stretching for Jiu Jitsu” mini-series, we’ll look at a few basic exercises to promote strong and flexible knees. Let’s start with a video introduction to knees and the ways you can injure them:
Note: If you do end up sidelined due to injury, BDMMA team member Nate Chubay has a great article on how to keep improving your BJJ, even while you recover.
Taking Care of Your Knees
As is true of most joints, good health in the knee demands both strength and flexibility, and we’ve got exercises here to develop both. Since you can’t exactly strengthen your knees, per se, the best thing to do is work the surrounding muscles.
The good news is that you can help your knees by strengthening your quad (thigh) muscles. Because knee joints are supported by the quads, if your quads are strong your knees will be stronger. (source)
Stronger Quadriceps for Stronger Knees
These simple standing exercises for your quads require no equipment. Besides working the leg muscles, these will also help to strengthen the ligaments and tendons throughout your lower body.
Wall Slides (right):
Stand with your back against a wall andyour feet a comfortable distance from the wall. Slide down it until your knees approach a ninety degree angle. Hold the position, as if sitting against on an invisible chair. Stand, repeat.
Whether you do these with weights or not, the movement is essentially the same. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your back straight and drop your hips. Hold that position, then return to standing. To make the move more challenging, you can add a jump in between squats.
Simple Stretches to Keep your Knees Working Smoothly
As above, part of the trick to keeping your knees healthy is keeping the surrounding muscles healthy. So, when you’re stretching your lower body, think about how your movements involve your knees, especially.
Child’s Pose (right)
This move comes from yoga; those more fluent in Sanskrit may know it as Balasana. It’s basically designed to relax you, but it has certain other physiological benefits. As you settle into the pose, you should be able to gently stretch your knees. For BJJ in particular, the move is also useful for minimizing the gap between your ankle and the floor.
Leg Cradles (left)
Typically, these are an exercise for hip flexibility, but there’s no doubt that these help work the knees, too. The idea is to grab your foot or ankle with one hand, then scoop under your knee with the other arm. Gently pull your leg towards your chest. You can do this move either standing or seated.
There’s one more little drill in the video that follows. It calls for a little more setup and a little bit of equipment, but it’s more specifically designed to minimize knee injury in BJJ.