Patella Protection!

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Question: I have a partial tear in my patella tendon but my doctor feels that surgery is not needed. I just need to be careful in my leg training. Are there any exercises that I should avoid or just try different exercises and see what hurts?
Answer: It is fortunate that your injury did not need surgery and that your physical therapy was so successful that you don’t experience constant knee pain. You return to the gym and training will require deliberate experimentation to determine what exercises are painful and those that are not. However using these steps and exercises may help your return to training to be quick, constructive and pain free. Get the knees warmed up before you begin a workout by riding a stationary bike at low resistance for 3 to 5 minutes. The bike’s movement tends to stretch out the tendons and get the blood flowing well in your legs without being stressful. Begin your leg training with leg curls. One particular exercise that is effective if you don’t have a leg curl machine, or even if you do, is to get a partner to help you to do incline leg curls with a dumbbell. It’s definitely old school but actually more effective for the hamstrings because it requires you to squeeze your legs together as you curl the dumbbell which you are holding between your feet. Set a bench up on an 8 to 12 inch block and lie down holding the upper end of the bench securely. Curl your legs up and squeeze them together as you have your partner place a dumbbell between your feet. Extend the legs back out and curl again performing 8 to 10 reps. Start with a light dumbbell, 20 to 25 pounds and work your way up heavier as you get stronger and comfortable with the movement. You will find it surprisingly effective.
Static Lunges are another option when done with this setup. They are typically done by taking a step out, dropping into a split squat position and then driving the forward leg back into starting position. The floor is flat and level though which forces you to place the stress on the ball of your foot which, in turn, places more stress on the patella tendon. Place a 45 pound plate on a 4 to 6 inch block so it is inclined. Step away from the plate and repeat the lunge movement placing your foot on the center of the plate. Now when you drive back to starting position drive from your heel keeping your forward foot that is on the plate flat, not raising up on your toes. The stress of the movement is in your hamstring and still in your quad as well but without the patella tendon stress. With your knees really warmed up you can give squats a try but be deliberate in your movement and not explosive with it until you have a good feel for the exercise and how your knee will respond. These exercises and methodology should be helpful in your return to full force training.
God bless and be pain free,
Daryl

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