Hitting the gym is a great way of strengthening and improving the flexibility of your precious knee joints, making them less susceptible to future injury, however there are also a lot of ways things can go wrong. Here are some common gym mistakes that can cause knee injuries.
You’ve got your alignment wrong
In a loud, crowded environment like your gym probably is, it is very easy to lose sight of the fundamentals – such as the correct form and alignment required by different exercises. For example, if you do a forward lunge your knee, shin and ankle all need to be stacked in a straight light. If you’ve got into the habit of allowing your knee to protrude over your ankle whilst doing this move, you are placing unnecessary stress on your knee joints, and causing serious muscle imbalances elsewhere.
You are over-loading the wrong muscle groups
When you go to the gym for your regular workout, you may without your knowledge be working some muscle groups too hard. And when other muscles remain underdeveloped as a result of this, this can increase the strain on your knee. For instance, overloading your quadriceps muscles with heavy lifting, bodyweight exercises, and running, leaves your hamstring muscles weak and places excessive strain on your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). And when the quadriceps are working too hard, you’ll begin feeling a pull upon the ligaments connecting to the knee as well.
You’re not wearing the right shoes
Wearing the right shoes for the exercise at hand makes all the difference in the world to the impact felt by your knees. Lifting in running shoes does not provide you with sufficient stability and leaves you susceptible to serious injury. By the same token, make sure you run in shoes with plenty of cushioning and room, so that you don’t ask too much of the wrong muscle groups – it’s the whole overloading problem all over again. And also don’t knock using things like knee pads or sleeves during your workouts, because knee protection gear like, for example, volleyball knee pads are must have equipment for athletes as well as sports enthusiasts and gym beginners. Especially if you don’t have the strongest knees.
You’re neglecting your stability and mobility
Even if you are up to speed on your strength, it all comes to very little if it isn’t matched with sufficient mobility and stability work. Mobility and stability exercises will strengthen and increase the flexibility of your hips, which will greatly improve your agility, power, stride and quickness, and in turn prevent injury to your knees.
You’re doing too much, too soon
Heading directly for the heaviest weights in the gym is a surefire path to injuring your knees. Barbell back squats, deadlifts and the like, are fantastic exercises, but you need to identify how to do them properly, particularly if you have an already existing condition or injury, and also start out slow so that, again, you don’t overload your muscles.
You don’t perform single leg exercises
This again will create muscle imbalances that leave you knee joints open to injury. Running after all, is basically just a sequence of one-legged squat jumps – you push off the ground using your dominant foot before landing on the other one. To avoid muscles weakness and imbalance, you need to be capable of standing and balancing comfortably on either leg. Once again, slowly build up the intensity levels if you are still wobbling on one of your feet, don’t go straight for one legged deadlifts!