Improve stability, prevent injury with prehab exercises

One of my favorite sights at the gym is parents teaching their children the importance of fitness. Many times it is a father teaching a son, or mother working out with her daughter. Seeing the tandem warm-ups and subsequent lifting is a thing of beauty to me.

Another favorite sight on the gym floor is what I call “prehab” exercises. Prehab exercises are movements to help guard against injury. Unlike rehabilitation exercises prescribed as part of therapy, prehab exercises can be shared by a personal trainer as a way to increase stability. 

After serious injury or surgery, people may see a physical therapists who will use their expertise to design a regimen of therapy. That regimen will, among other things, often include simple exercises to facilitate healing. Rehabilitation after serious injury is important to healing and proper movement. If you need to visit a physical therapist, please do the prescribed therapy he or she outlines. 

Today’s exercises deal with knee stability. The most stable position for the knee is straight. When the knee is straight it gets strength from the structure of the body. When the knee is bent, tendons and ligaments support the joint through motion. This is why the body can take more load in a standing position than in a squatting position.

During a squat, there are major bends in the hips and knees to allow for the movement. Generally speaking, having major bends in a structure is not the most effective way of supporting load. However, the body is not just a structure. It is a machine that is capable of great feats. 

The trick with joint stability is to provide a controlled and unstable environment to practice in. This way, the joint is exposed to a range of different situations to adapt to.

Just because you are able to perform the exercise once doesn’t necessarily mean your joints are bulletproof. Continued practice and drilling will increase your strength and stability. 

Knee stability is important for all ages. One comment I hear often from colleagues is how much further along they would be if they had their current knowledge back in high school. I feel the same. Young athletes can do these exercises as part of a warm-up or cool-down before practice. Parents can sit a little more at ease in the stands knowing their teen has put in the work to help prevent injury. 

Young adults need knee stability, too. The main reason is you are not as young as you used to be. You have had 25 to 40 years for your muscles to get beaten up in different ways. Just because you were a fast runner in high school and college doesn’t necessarily mean you get out there and run a state qualifying time after taking six years off and doing half a warm-up.

Take the time for your body to regain that conditioning. Do some prehab for the knees as part of your conditioning.

If you’re seasoned in years, the stability work doesn’t stop. Maintain your joint health by having them strong and stable. You may not need your knees to kick goals or run for a touchdown. However, being able to catch yourself and avoid a nasty fall may very well be required for daily living.

The first exercise is a compass reach. Your gym doesn’t need to have a compass laid out on the floor. I made the compass in the photos today with blue painter’s tape. It won’t leave a sticky mess on your gym’s floor and comes up easy. It is also cheap. You can even make a compass on your garage floor and practice at home.

Tube walking requires a resistance band. I found the one featured in today’s column online for less than $4. I have also seen them at most sporting retailers here in Las Vegas. If you can’t find a resistance band, then try tube walking without one but use the same form until you get one. 

Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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