When I saw RGIII’s knee buckle in the wild card around, my heart dropped. I mean I love his work ethic and he seems to say the right things but I don’t wear his jersey or love the guy…but it didn’t matter. It could have been an athlete on the Giants and I would of felt the same way.
No athlete or person deserves to go through a devastating injury like that. I’ve recovered from 3 ACL Reconstructions where the ACL, MLC, LCL were all torn and “repaired. “ Now I have very little meniscus tissue left around my knee so running, Olympic lifting , jumping and heavy squatting are out of the question.
RGIII will go through a brutal 6-9 month recovery if he ever wants to play again. Luckily, us non-professional athletes, can easily side step ligament damage (and surgery) with the right program, without losing strength, size or definition.
If you’ve been lifting heavy weight for a period of time and/or are a former athlete, it’s likely you have dealt with some knee/shoulder/low back issues over time. From my football and lacrosse days, Therefore, I’ve forced myself to study how the knee and surrounding areas work to bypass pain and continue seeing maximum results.
On Side Stepping Knee Issues With Maximum Results
Generally when you’ve have ligament damage, you are limited to low impact activities, have to avoid some heavy lifting and certain lifts altogether. Here is a series of “this not that” exercises you can do to prevent further damage and keep progressing forward.
Of course you can wine and feel sorry for yourself but that will just make you fatter and weaker. Don’t listen to other people either: “Ah, I’m sorry,” “Poor you,” – shut em out! As parents/friends mean well, people are negative by nature and will always think something is worse than it really is. The reality is a knee issue is NOTHING in the grand scheme of things. You think you have it bad? What about those who are paralyzed or missing limbs?
Be grateful for your movement and let the training move on.
7. Components for Pain Free – High Performance Training
1. Tissue Work before EVERY workout:
2. Make Your Warm-up a Light Workout: I use to hate warming up…I felt it was a waste of time (idiot!). Rather than thinking of them as a boring way to prepare my body, I treat them as a light workout in itself. This helps me take it seriously!
Warming up will not only increase your performance, you’ll provide better lubrication for your joints, which will reduce the amount of impact your knees absorb.
Sample Lower Body Warm-up
3. Hip & Ankle Mobility:
The knees are often not the source of knee pain. I know for myself personally, my hips were extremely tight when I was on my ACL tear streak.
*Furniture sliders on turf or pillows on hardwood work too
1. Plantar – Dorsi Flexion on lacrosse/tennis ball or wobble board: 20 reps each foot
2. Rocking Ankle Mobilization: 10 reps each foot
4. FIRE Up Your Glutes
Although a proper squat should target your glutes, most training programs focus on quads, hamstrings and calves with little (if any) isolated focus on the glutes. This is crazy when we think about it because the main purpose of the glutes is to control the femur at the hip.
5. Building Strength Without Max Loading & High Impact Lifts
Heavy weight leads to size, no question there. But repetitive heavy weight will cause a great deal of compression on your knees and will lead to pain if not further injury.
Therefore you have to get creative with your training with a healthy mixture of isometric training, single leg movements, high reps, partial range of motion and suspension training. Here are 9 of my favorite lower body exercises for pain free performance and full body symmetry:
- Dynamic Isometric Front Squats: 6 reps
- Box Squats: 4-8 reps
- Wall sits: 60-90 seconds
- Single Leg Squats: 8-20 reps
- Single Leg Deadlifts: 8-20 reps
- Low Center of Gravity Lunge Variations: up to 8 reps each leg
- All Deadlift Variations with submaximal weight
- Suspended Leg Curls: 15-30 reps
- Suspended Glute Bridges: 15-30 reps
Rocky’s trainer Duke says it best in Rocky Balboa:
“And your knees can’t take the pounding, so hard running is out.” This is not the worst thing in the world; running is boring as hell anyway!
- Boxing: Staying in the Rocky theme from the aforementioned quote, boxing is one of the greatest forms of cardio. You let out aggression, maintain an elevated heart rate, increase your cardio respiratory capacity, build core strength, improve agility, and it’s exhilarating! – I’d rather watch paint dry than run on a treadmill anyway.
- Battle Ropes: These have quickly become one of the best conditioning tools out there. You can perform a variety of movements with the rope; slams, loops, Y’s, T’s, steady waves as you hold an athletic stance, isometric squat or isometric split squat.
- Swimming: I’m not suggesting you wear a speedo and wear a rubber as a hat…any bathing suit will do. Rather than just swimming lap after lap, make it interesting with this interval:
Full Lap x1
Dips (in the pool, using the ledge) x 20 reps
Full Lap x 1
Isometric Squat (press off the ledge out of the pool) x 30 seconds
Repeat this set performing each exercise back to back. The only rest is the transition from swimming to each exercise.
From swimming laps, you’re heart rate should be cranked high and your triceps & shoulders pre-exhausted. This will make the dips a greater challenge and will allow you to rip more muscle fiber.
Isometric, or no movement, is one of the best techniques to create a strong muscular contraction. Holding a squat will contract your quads, which will fire up the neurological response from your knee to your brain. Often, if you are experiencing knee pain, it could mean your quads are not contracting properly.
Tight muscles will cause issues for your joints and will effect all movement.
The way I see it you have three options:
- Avoid lower body training and look like a jabronie on the beach
- Continue with maximal lifts, high impact activities that may lead to further injury and ultimately surgery
- Make these adjustments and continue training your body at a high level for strength, size and symmetry.
Take it from my personal experience and that of hundreds of my clients, #3 is your only option if you want to live a fulfilling life and create your best body yet.