In an American society where severe, debilitating injuries have become an accepted price of being fit and athletic, we, as an industry, must learn to evolve our thinking and practices to address this injury epidemic before it puts us in the ground! There not only needs to be a shift in our views on injury and injury prevention, but a change in the action we take towards righting this sinking ship we call our orthopedic health.

Over the past three decades, the only serious rival to the notorious increases of lower back pain and symptomology has been the drastic spikes in the rates of knee injuries. Stating the statistics, like this is 1994 all over again, doesn't show the functional picture. A number cannot explain why with the absolute abundance of research on a myriad of topics all relating to traumatic knee injuries and preventative methods, active individuals far and wide are dropping like flies across the world, and this country more specifically. There has to be more to this dysfunctional story.


Since the dawn of the lifting man, programming has been largely focused on isolating and inauthentic movement patterns. As with anything else, we do what we know, and when all the research and expertise available at that time were based on idealistic human biomechanics, our true functionality was forgotten. It is no news that once an ideation creeps into our fitness industry, it may never be fully forgotten.

Advancements in the prehabilitation and rehabilitation of knee injuries have been few and far between in the last 10 years. This is disappointing, because it seems like the mission of numerous university faculty members throughout the country have made it their focus to eradicate female non-contact ACL injuries. Using the most advanced motion capture technologies and research methods known to man, the injury rates have not become significantly better. Our bodies are smarter and more adaptable than what can be currently measured.We must realize this fact and embrace it, instead of turning function into an academic debate.


Give yourself the ammunition to bulletproof your knees no matter what your training specialty or sport focus. Combining a few fundamental movements such as the hip hinge and lunge pattern with a new school flare on execution, these exercises will allow you to rise above the masses, protecting yourself in the process.

#1 - Reverse Lunge

Not only is the reverse lunge an effective movement to build strong quads, it also utilizes the role of the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) as dynamic stabilizers. Relearning how to dynamically stabilize your hips while the knee moves through a range can drastically reduce unwanted torsional forces at the knees. Utilizing a slight hip hinge (torso facing slightly towards the ground) can also reduce shear forces at the knees bilaterally. Stay smooth and own your position throughout the movement!


  • SETS: 3-5
  • REPS: 6-8
  • RHYTHM: 10x1
  • REST: 60-75 seconds (after both sides are completed)


In this movement, we are shifting the focus to eccentrically (tension while lengthening) strengthen the hamstrings. Due to the primary mechanism of action of the entire hamstring group, stronger hamstrings equates to less strain through the cruciate ligaments (ACL/PCL). Keeping a stable core position, controlling the descent of the motion, and dynamically bringing your body back into a neutral position will enhance your single leg balance while also strengthening your entire posterior chain!


  • SETS: 3-4
  • REPS: 8-12
  • RHYTHM: 2010
  • REST: 60 seconds (after both sides are completed)


This isn't your father's lateral lunge! Using unstable surface training via the BOSU® Ball, this variation of the lateral lunge will not only challenge your mobility, but also your static stability in a single leg stance!Make sure to incorporate dynamic reciprocal arm motion into the lunge, squeezing every drop of functionality out of this exercise!


  • SETS: 4-5
  • REPS: 4-6
  • RHYTHM: 11x1
  • REST: 45-60 seconds (between sides)


This old school track and field training staple takes on a new task for enhancing knee stability and function. By explosively taking off from a single leg stance in an oblique plane, muscles of the inner thigh and quadriceps, along with the entire posterior chain will become highly active.The landing portion of this movement is where the magic is made. Landing as soft as possible, and assuming a ½ squat position, you will maintain this iso-hold for a second before exploding through your next rep! Give yourself concentrated rest between sets for this one!Remember explosion is a highly neurological skill set that needs to be honed while your body is fresh! Slow down, Bode Miller!


  • SETS: 3-4
  • REPS: 4-5 (per leg alternating)
  • RHYTHM: Explosive Jump followed by 1 second iso-hold (each bound)
  • REST: 75-90 seconds


The rear foot elevated split squat is the more functional stepbrother of the vilified leg press! Not only is it a great quadriceps builder, it puts more of a focus on the vastus medialis (VMO) quadriceps muscle that is largely involved with knee stability during dynamic motions such as running and changing direction.If you want to take this movement to the next level, the use of the BOSU® Ball under the foot of the non-elevated leg. This will provide a huge challenge to your stability throughout your body, and throw your heart rate through the roof in the process.


  • SETS: 3-5
  • REPS: 12-15
  • RHYTHM: 11x1
  • REST: 45 seconds (between legs)


Evolving from the norms of the industry can prove a difficult task. Don't fall victim to the academics, once you find your function, you best stick to it! Use the movements above in conjunction with any lower body emphasis training day to reap the benefit of healthy knees. It's time to be the change, and take your knee health into your own hands!

About the Author: Dr. John Rusin is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Performance Physical Therapist specializing in all encompassing programming design for athletes and clients alike. John's single-minded goal is to bridge the ever-growing gap between high performance Strength and Conditioning and cutting edge rehabilitation programming for the elite strength athlete. From NFL and MLB athletes to competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders, John has developed recovery, regeneration, and prehab-rehab programs for some of the world's best power athletes both in person, and from an online platform. John is the owner of JR Fitness Systems, located in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information about Hands-On Self Myofascial Release Techniques, or about Dr. John, email him directly at , or visit these pages: Website | Facebook John Rusin Fitness Systems |Twitter @johnrusin

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