Many of our clients find us because an injury or ailment keeps them from doing the things they love, whether it’s running, skiing, cycling, or playing tag with their children. Pilates can help you build back strength and get back to doing the things you love.
Knee problems in particular are incredibly common, for a variety of reasons. Many people associate aches and pains as a natural part of aging, but we disagree. You don’t have to age in pain, and aches and pains shouldn’t preclude you from your favorite activities.
The knee joints are some of the most important joints in the body, and reformer Pilates strengthens the surrounding muscle groups to protect the knee. As a low-impact exercise, Pilates can support your fitness goals and minimize common aches and pains.
Quick disclaimer: for any injury or serious pain, always consult with a qualified medical professional before undergoing any exercise plan.
How reformer Pilates strengthens the knee
Happy, pain-free knees are protected by all of the surrounding muscles. Our bodies are an interconnected system, and your body will let you know when the system falls out of balance. While the source of knee pain changes, the fundamental reasons tend to be tightness, weak surrounding muscles, or poor alignment (in the absence of injury or preexisting conditions).
“Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, which makes it ideal for people with knee pain. Pilates also helps improve balance and promotes proper alignment, which can help alleviate knee discomfort.” – RTR Instructor Tiffany L.
Even muscle development
Knee pain is often a result of underdeveloped muscles, which put undue pressure on the knee joint. This includes the hamstrings, quads, glutes, IT band, and core. Building up these muscle groups will go a long way toward reducing any knee pain.
“Build the butt, save the knee!” – RTR Founder & CEO Reina Offutt
Thankfully, reformer Pilates works all of these muscle groups through low-impact exercises that protect the knee. Some of our favorite exercises for knee pain include:
- Planks (with optional modifications for knee pain)
- Assisted lunges
Tension & misalignment
The knees are not an isolated body part, and knee pain can often start in other places in the lower body. Poor alignment in the foot, such as excessive supination, can cause stress higher up in the body, especially for runners. Footwork in Pilates helps develop the foot muscles evenly, which helps distribute weight up the leg evenly to reduce knee pain.
Another common source of knee pain is a tight iliotibial band (IT band). The IT band is a bunch of fibers that run down the outside of your legs, and it tends to get really tight in office workers. Improved IT band flexibility, alongside hamstring flexibility, can significantly decrease knee pain. Our side-lying exercises reduce tension in the legs, which goes a long way for knee pain.
Modification options for knee pain
If you experience knee pain in class, always let an instructor know! They can evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain. For many people, this will involve changing knee alignment or hip rotation.
“Bridging is one of the best exercises since it helps strengthen the back of the legs, including the hamstring and glute muscles. Adding the ball in between the knees for bridging allows the inner thighs (ADDuctors) to be challenged. The inner thigh muscles also help support the knee. Clamshells help to build up leg muscles (glutes and ABductors) while putting little stress on the knee.” – RTR Instructor Tiffany L.
Different modifications will feel better for different people. Depending on the source of your knee pain, you might find that parallel, internal, or external leg rotations will feel best for your body. Based on which of these rotations works for you, your instructor can provide the best modifications during class.
Your instructor can also help you find the best spring load on the reformer to protect your knees. With the reformer, there are plenty of modifications to make things harder or easier based on what your body needs.
Start reducing your knee pain today
Our ultimate goal is to make aches and pains asymptomatic. Pilates is a great tool to build an overall stronger, more supported body. You don’t have to age in pain or resign yourself to knee pain.
Join our community at RTR Pilates and experience the power of Pilates firsthand! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.