Knees are as crucial to the body as columns are to a building; without them, everything crumbles. Shifty movements and changes of direction are fixtures in a basketball game. That is why it is essential to develop strong knees to pull off these movements. If not, you’re just an injury waiting to happen. To learn more about how to strengthen knees for basketball, read on and know some tips and proven basketball strength exercises.
Why Is It Important to Keep Your Knees Healthy
The knee is the largest joint of the body. It also bears the brunt of all our weight. In fact, every pound of body weight is multiplied four or five times in the knees. Yes, the knees take a beating every time we jog, sprint, and run.
Because basketball involves many of the movements we mention, it is imperative to keep your knees healthy. Otherwise, you will be prone to knee injuries, which are not only painful but could potentially debilitating long-term. Furthermore, healthy knees prevent deterioration due to aging, helping you to remain mobile and active during your later years.
Part of keeping the knees healthy is by maintaining their range of motion. That means you have to exercise them and keep them moving. You don’t have to force anything; just go through whatever is comfortable for your knees.
Why Your Knees Hurt When Playing Basketball
Studies have shown that stress in the knees is up to four or five times the body’s weight. That means a 200-pound player would have 800 pounds of pressure in those knees as he sprints and darts all over the floor.
Given that fact, it’s easy to see why the knees hurt when playing basketball. The most common knee injury is patellar tendinitis, commonly called Jumper’s Knee. It is caused by repetitive jumping and over-exertion of the knees, typically happening in basketball and volleyball players.
Here are more knee injuries that may be causing your knee pain:
- Torn ACL (A torn ACL happens when a knee twists or bends way beyond its normal range).
- Torn MCL (An MCL tear is caused by a knee sprain.)
- Torn Meniscus (A torn meniscus affects a player’s speed and quickness. It can also be excruciating, but it eventually cures somewhere between one to four weeks.)
- Dislocated kneecap (The kneecap could be dislocated when there is a sudden twisting motion after the feet are planted.)
If you have experienced chronic knee pain, it would be best to confer with a specialist to see if you have sustained any of these injuries.
How Do Athletes Strengthen Their Knees?
Athletes strengthen their knees through knee strengthening exercises and basketball strength exercises in general. You see, strong knees do not only call for “strong knees” per se; the muscles that surround your knees must also be strengthened so that they can absorb the impact. These muscles support the knee joint and take the stress off the knees. Therefore, it’s critical to strengthen these muscles, especially your quads, if you want to protect your knees.
Trainers make it a point to mix up strengthening exercises for their athlete clients. For instance, they may incorporate plyometrics and maybe the use of resistance bands on top of the more traditional strength training exercises. Combining these exercises also ensures that you’re using all muscle groups, thereby preventing muscle atrophy. If all your muscle groups can take a pounding, then it should follow that your knees could as well.
How Do You Protect Your Knees for Basketball?
Injury prevention is already half the battle when you’re playing basketball. The truth is, basketball is the fourth-highest knee injury-causing sport at the recreational and community levels. It’s just how it is, with all the cutting, acceleration, deceleration, and whatnot. Stress piles up, and it takes a toll on the knees.
With that being said, how do you protect your knees? The first thing you need to have is an understanding of the risks. When you have a good knowledge of the danger involved, you can effectively prevent a severe knee injury from happening. Knee stretches and basketball leg workouts may also help. But then again, sometimes, all it takes is common sense and a little modesty.
What does that mean? Well, we all see Kyrie Irving doing his patented crossovers or James Harden stopping on a dime, but should you really attempt to imitate every single move you see on TV? It’s exciting and makes us feel good, but remember that these exploits are done by the world’s athletes of the highest level! Their knee strength and endurance are worlds apart from ours.
As a teen or pre-teen who wants to take basketball seriously, you should be protecting your knees at all costs. Here are some tips for you to do so:
- Always be in good physical shape. Remember that the stress of your knees could be up to five times that of your body weight. If you’re holding extra weight, shedding excess pounds can be less straining on your knees. Then, when you’re fit and ready, you can work on knee strengthening exercises much longer.
- Warm up before practices and games. Cold muscles are more prone to injuries. A 10-minute warmup session is all that it takes to jumpstart your muscles.
- Focus on a less flashy game. Some players naturally have the flair and the finesse, but you don’t have to be the highlight guy all the time. Focus on the fundamentals and positioning.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is an excellent way to maintain elasticity on the tendons and ligaments. Elastic tendons and ligaments allow for more flexibility and range of motion and could aid in preventing knee injuries.
- Stop before it gets worse. Many players tough it out through injuries even if they’re experiencing pain. It’s a fantastic feel-good story, but it could be detrimental to your long-term health. You better stop playing as soon as you’re feeling weird.
5 Tips to Make Your Knees Stronger
1. Be Physically Active
Physical activity helps maintain healthy joint functions, and the knees are the biggest joints of the body. It also improves the strength and range of motion, resulting in lesser force being absorbed by the knees. If the body’s biggest shock absorbers take a little less pounding, it will last long.
2. Lose some weight
Even a 10-pound loss could make a lot of difference. That means the impact on your knees is diminished by 40 pounds! Go lose 10 more and your knees will thank you.
3. Do high-impact exercises
Before, it was thought that high-impact exercises such as sprinting and running are bad for the knees, but that’s actually not true. You just have to be balanced about it. Again, the best way to do this is to mix up high-impact exercises as you train. For example, if you run, don’t do it on consecutive days. Try biking, swimming, and other cardio exercises on other days.
4. Wear the right shoes
Believe it or not, abnormalities on the feet can contribute to knee osteoarthritis. Be sure that you’re wearing the right shoes for your exercise. If you’re running or doing strength training, go for lighter, more comfortable shoes; when it’s time to play ball, choose something right for your feet. Also, wearing shoes too big or too small reduces mobility and could therefore lead to injuries.
RICE means Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation in physical therapy circles. RICE is not limited to older athletes; even younger players should follow the protocol to save their knees. When experiencing knee pain, you can take NSAIDs, but it’s time to see the doctor if it doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, even if you’re limited, you can still do some gentle exercises like swimming or any pool-based activities.
5 Best Knee Strengthening Exercises for Basketball Players
All the sudden stops, pivots, and jumping in basketball takes a toll on your knees. The key is to strengthen the rest of your body, especially the lower and upper legs, to become a player with healthy, resilient knees.
These are the best exercises to strengthen knees for basketball:
1. Bodyweight Quarter Squat
The bodyweight quarter squats allow you to have more reps, focusing entirely on your knees and quadriceps. To do this exercise, push your hips as if you’re sitting down, with your knees at a 45-degree angle. Return to your starting position to complete one rep. If you can go for as much as 20 to 30, you’re doing good.
2. Lateral Lunges
Traditional exercises are the standard exercises for a reason– they just work. The lateral lunge is one of those. It makes use of your body weight as a means to strengthen your knees while teaching them to balance and control.
To do a lateral lunge, set your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your upper body straight. Step with your right or left foot (whichever you feel comfortable going first) and lean on that leg until you’re basically squatting on one foot. Push off the same foot and start over. Work until you’re able to do 10 reps of these.
3. Glute bridges
The glutes, or gluteus muscles, are the fleshy part of the buttocks. It’s essential to strengthen the glutes to stabilize landings and rotations. Strong glutes absorb the shock, preventing the impact from going straight to the knees.
Glute bridges are an excellent way to start. To do this, start by laying down on the floor, bending your knees so that your feet are in line with your hips. Lift your buttocks up, but be sure that your back doesn’t arch. Hold that position for a couple of seconds and do as much as 10 reps.
4. Heel Lifts
Heel lifts are meant to strengthen the calves, which again act as a shock absorber for the knees. It is a short basketball leg workout that you can do anytime, anywhere.
To do a heel lift, bend your knees slightly, with your feet shoulder-length apart. Your arms should be on your sides and palms facing forward. Stand on your tip-toes and hold that position for a few seconds. Get back to your starting position and repeat 15 times.
5. Straight Leg Raise
Again, you can do this exercise when you’re rehabbing or chilling in your living room. Leg raises are generally very easy to do, and the straight leg raise is no different.
First, lie down on your back, but support your upper body with your elbows. The exercising leg should be straight while the other leg is bent. Now, you can put ankle weights on the exercising leg to maximize the exercise. Lift the leg until it is approximately at a 45-degree angle on the flat surface. Do 30 reps or three sets of 10.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Strengthen Knees for Basketball
The knees are very critical in sports. They are the hub of your body, the biggest joints, and helpful shock absorbers. That is why it’s imperative to strengthen the knees when playing basketball. If not, you are just a ticking injury time bomb waiting to explode.
But here is the deal: There are really no knee strengthening exercises that do the trick in a snap. The secret is to strengthen the different muscle groups in your body, including the calves, glutes, and quads. On top of that, a healthy, active lifestyle and a little common sense goals a long way.
For example, it will be a lot of help losing a few pounds to lessen the stress on the knees. If you feel pain when playing or exercising, do not try to tough it out by continuing to play. Do the RICE method, perhaps taking some Ibuprofen to abate the inflammation.
Proven knee strengthening exercises are the traditional ones. These are leg raises, glute bridges, lateral lunges, heel lifts, and quarter squats. The best part about it is that you can do most of these exercises without special equipment anytime, anywhere. We hope that this article has helped you know how to strengthen knees for basketball. Play on!