There are a wide range of knee stretches. Most are designed to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in and around the joint and offer optimum flexibility and mobility. Some different knee stretches include the basic knee stretch, the quadricep stretch, the hamstring stretch, and the calf stretch. Although each of these stretches works different muscles and tendons in the legs, all can help stretch the knee joint.
The knee is the largest joint in the body and is composed of the femur, the tibia, and the patella. Cartilage runs between the bones to allow them to pass each other without grating or causing discomfort. There are four tendons in and around the joint which keep the bones in the correct alignment and offer rotation, flexibility, and stability. If an injury is sustained to any part of the knee, rehabilitation will most often incorporate a range of knee stretches.
A basic knee stretch involves laying on the back, with the head and neck supported comfortably. The knee should be bent as far as is comfortable, bringing the foot toward the body, which remains flat on the ground. This exercise should be repeated 10 to 20 times per set.
A quadricep stretch requires the use of a chair back for support. The heel of one leg should be lifted toward the buttocks, keeping the knees together and the back straight. With one hand on the back of the chair for balance, the other hand can be used to grip the foot and help bring it towards the buttocks until the stretch is felt in the front of the thigh. This position should be held for 15 seconds and repeated four times in the early stages of the stretching routine.
A hamstring stretch is performed with one foot lifted out and forwards, with the heel resting on a step. Keeping the back and legs straight, a person should lean forward, bending at the hips until the stretch is felt in the back of the knee or thigh. The position should be held for 15 seconds and repeated four times.
To perform a calf stretch, the hands should be placed against the wall for support with one leg stretched out behind with the foot flat on the floor. A lunge should be performed by gently bending the other leg until a stretch is felt in the back of the calf of the leg stretched out behind. Both feet should remain flat on the floor. The position should be held for 15 seconds and repeated four times.
Stretches should typically be performed two to three times per day, with ten repetitions per set. The number of repetitions per set and the number of sets per session should be gradually increased over several weeks so that the components of the knee are not over stretched, which can result in discomfort or injury. No stretches should cause or increase pain.
Knee stretches may be used to aid rehabilitation after sustaining an injury. They are commonly used as part of a regular exercise routine to minimize risk of injury and maintain peak levels of flexibility and strength. Along with stretches targeting other areas of the body, knee stretches can be used prior to periods of physical or sporting activity to stretch the muscles and tendons and prepare them for exercise.