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How can you strengthen your knees for running?

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The question

I like to run but my knees are not that strong. My doctor suggested I concentrate on strengthening my quads, to ensure proper kneecap alignment. I do squats, lunges, leg extension and curls. Are there any exercises I am missing?

The answer

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The exercises you are doing are fine, but most likely you have a slight muscle recruitment imbalance.

There are four different muscles that comprise the group of muscles that are commonly referred to as the quads: the vastus lateralis, the vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and the rectus femoris.

The vastus medialis is often underdeveloped. This can cause the patella (knee cap) to track laterally toward the outside of the leg.

To get your vastus medialis obliques to fire, try these two exercises.

Quad/hamstring/glute squeezes: Sit tall in a chair with your fingers placed on the inside of your knees. Simultaneously squeeze your bum, the back and front of your upper legs and the VMO muscles under your fingers. Do at least 10 reps once per day

Don't be discouraged if it takes you a couple of weeks to feel the VMO fire. For most people, the neurological connection to this muscle is weak.

Once you can feel the inner knee muscles working, you can progress to the second exercise.

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Terminal knee extension: Stand perpendicular to a stable object. Loop a resistance band around the object and then step the leg that is closest to the stable object through the band. The band should lie flat against your leg, above your knee. Step away from the object so the band has tension. Bend the banded knee slightly and then, as you straighten the leg, focus on the inner knee muscles (VMO). Never let the tension on the band pull your leg out of alignment. Do 10 reps on each leg.

Trainer's Tip: Incorporate rowing into your routine. It can be a great exercise to strengthen the VMO.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at . She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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