How to Keep From Locking My Knees
A complex joint consisting of ligaments, muscles, cartilage and tendons, the knees can be a vulnerable spot during athletic or fitness activity. Because of its vulnerability, fitness trainers and teachers often warn against locking out your knees, or hyperextending your leg, when working out.
When the joint is locked, the stress is taken off of the supporting muscles and placed onto the knee; as a result, the soft tissue in the knee becomes damaged, greatly increasing the risk of a knee injury. Being aware of your body, balancing your muscles and working out with proper techniques can help keep your knees in the correct position and decrease your chance of sustaining an injury.
Know Your Limits
Choose a resistance level that matches your fitness ability for all standing and leg exercises, such as squats, leg extensions, leg presses and standing barbell curls. Using weights that are too heavy for your leg muscles to handle can cause you to lock your knees for extra support. Pick a resistance level that allows you to complete at least eight and no more than 12 repetitions with proper form.
Avoid Over Striding
Hamstrings & Knee Pain
Shorten your stride when running or walking; an exaggerated stride can cause you to lock your knees as you extend your leg. An indication that your stride is too long is if your leg lands in front of you, rather than under your body. Keep the knee joint soft throughout the entire stride cycle and allow it to naturally bend when your foot hits the ground.
Read More: Core Strength Training Workouts
- Shorten your stride when running or walking; an exaggerated stride can cause you to lock your knees as you extend your leg.
Build a Better Core
Strengthen your core to improve the alignment of your legs and feet, which can help you to properly activate the muscles of the lower extremities and reduce the stress on your knees. A weak core, especially weak glutes, can destabilize your pelvis and pull it off-center. The effect of this can travel all the way down your legs.
Train your core, which includes your abdominal muscles, glutes, lower back and hips, two to three times per week. Examples of efficient exercises for the core include planks, bird-dogs, back extensions, deadlifts, bridges and abdominal crunches.
- Strengthen your core to improve the alignment of your legs and feet, which can help you to properly activate the muscles of the lower extremities and reduce the stress on your knees.
Build Leg Strength
Knee Injuries & Sprinting
Perform resistance-training exercises that target your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves two to three times per week. Weak leg muscles can make the knee do double duty to provide stability, strength and power.
Include exercises such as squats, lunges, leg presses, deadlifts and leg curls in your fitness routine. Execute three exercises per workout; aim for three sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Vary your resistance methods to avoid hitting a plateau by including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands and cables.
- Perform resistance-training exercises that target your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves two to three times per week.
- Vary your resistance methods to avoid hitting a plateau by including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands and cables.
Stretch regularly to keep your muscles flexible, elongated and supple. Tight quadriceps, for example, can be difficult to activate properly and may lead you to lock your knees for extra support. Stretch for 10 to 20 minutes at the end of each workout. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Breathe deeply while stretching, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
Read More: Stretches for Pain in the Knees
- Stretch regularly to keep your muscles flexible, elongated and supple.
- Stretch for 10 to 20 minutes at the end of each workout.
Hamstrings & Knee Pain
Knee Injuries & Sprinting
How to Strengthen the Patella Tendon
Shin Stretches for Runners
Workouts for Tendonitis Leg Pain
How to Massage a Knee After Total Replacement
How to Gain Height By Improving Posture
Knee Pain From Kicking a Ball
Stretches for Adductor Muscles
Exercises to Lose Butt Fat
- BBC Sport: Health & Fitness: Are You Running Properly?
- Podiatry Today: How Core Muscles Can Affect the Lower Extremity
- Muscle & Fitness Hers: 5 Moves to Sculpt Strong, Lean Legs
- University of California, Riverside: Stretching Exercises for the Lower and Upper Body
- FitSugar: Fit Tip: Don’t Lock Your Knees
- Rogan S, Haehni M, Luijckx E, Dealer J, Reuteler S, Taeymans J. Effects of Hip Abductor Muscles Exercises on Pain and Function in Patients With Patellofemoral Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2019;33(11):3174-3187. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002658
- Harris-hayes M, Mueller MJ, Sahrmann SA, et al. Persons with chronic hip joint pain exhibit reduced hip muscle strength. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014;44(11):890-8. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5268
- Proper Body Alignment. National Osteoporosis Foundation.
- Hunt MA. Movement retraining using real-time feedback of performance. J Vis Exp. 2013;(71):e50182. Published 2013 Jan 17. doi:10.3791/50182
- Harvard Medical School. Core conditioning — It's not just about abs. Healthbeat. Harvard Health Publishing.
- Huxel Bliven KC, Anderson BE. Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports Health. 2013;5(6):514–522. doi:10.1177/1941738113481200
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.