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Should You Do Knee Circles as a Warm-Up Before Running?

Knee circles are an action that many people have done during warm-ups, and they are also very common in physical education classes in primary and secondary schools. However, with the rise of national sports, especially road running, in recent years, scientific training methods have received more and more attention, and many people have questioned and denied the warm-up action of knee circles. On the other hand, we have also received feedback from many people: “I have been doing knee circles since I was a child, and I have not felt that it will cause discomfort to the knee joint when performing knee circle exercises.”

Is the knee circle a wrong move? Why is there controversy? Let’s start with the origin of the controversy.

Why the Knee Circle Exercise is Controversial

It is now generally believed that knee looping is a wrong action, mainly related to the structural analysis of the knee joint. From the perspective of joint structure, the knee joint (here mainly refers to the femoral and tibial joints in the knee joint) is a trochlear joint, and its main function is to Flexion and extension movements, while its rotational range of motion is relatively small.

On the one hand, when a joint does not have the corresponding function but rotates excessively, it is easy to cause sports injuries; on the other hand, the “joint-by-joint theory” further supports this view. According to the “joint-by-joint theory”, the knee joint is more responsible for the stability of the lower limbs during movement, while the flexibility of the lower limbs is controlled by the hip joint and ankle joint. This is also the reason why some coaches believe that knee looping is an incorrect action and may cause sports injuries.

The above views are reasonable, but only from the perspective of structure and function, there is also a certain degree of one-sidedness.

Just because the rotational range of the knee joint is small does not mean there is no range of motion at all.

The rotational mobility of the knee joint depends on the degree of flexion and extension of the knee joint. The more flexion and flexion the knee joint has, the greater the rotational mobility. When the knee joint is in the flexion position, not only does it have rotational mobility, but its amplitude is not small, about 50-60°, but compared to flexion and extension, its rotational mobility is much smaller.

When the knee joint is fully extended, it basically has no rotation function. In other words, the so-called rotation range of the knee joint is small, only relative to its flexion and extension, but in fact it still has a certain degree of rotational mobility.

The knee joint not only has rotational mobility, but its rotational function is very important to the knee joint. When the knee joint completes flexion and extension movements, it must be accompanied by rotation (when the knee is flexed, the tibia is internally rotated, when the knee is extended, the tibia is externally rotated). If the knee joint cannot reach its normal range of rotation, it will not only have a certain impact on the flexion and extension of the knee joint, but also cause problems with the rhythm of joint movement, resulting in sports injuries.

The knee joint dominates stability, which does not mean that the knee joint does not need flexibility.

The joint-by-joint theory believes that each joint is mainly responsible for one thing, and any of our joints have a certain degree of stability and flexibility at the same time, or they need to be both stable and flexible. It’s just that there may be a difference in the importance of the two. According to the joint-by-joint theory, similarly, the flexibility of the knee joint also has a certain significance.

Many of us now have insufficient hip joint mobility, which causes the lower limbs to use the knee joint to compensate for part of the hip flexibility during exercise. If the range of motion of the hip joint is limited, the range of motion of the knee joint is also limited, which will also increase the risk of sports injuries.

The controversy over the rights and wrongs of knee-circling movements may also be related to the audience targeted when explaining this issue. For most amateur sports enthusiasts, they would rather know what they should do and what they must avoid: such as “Is it better to exercise in the morning or in the evening?”, “Should speed be practiced in endurance events”, “Running and Which one is better for losing weight, swimming?” Wait, more sports enthusiasts hope to get a definite or even absolute answer. In fact, they will put a question mark in their hearts for vague suggestions, but the structure of human beings The level of sophistication is so complex that no one solution will fit everyone.

From a professional perspective, there are too many “possibilities” in the field of sports training. In the field of sports training, there are no right/wrong training methods; there is no certain what should/should not be done; there is no “absolutely standard training plan”; when athletes have problems, coaches will first realize that there are many possibilities behind the problem. cause rather than directly giving a result. From the perspective of professional exploration, we are more suitable to regard various opinions and research results as a phenomenon rather than a conclusion. This is more conducive to a deeper understanding of various issues in training.

How should it be handled from the perspective of ordinary sports fans?

Now that the theoretical part is over, let’s talk about it from a practical perspective. Especially for the currently popular running events, the knee joints mainly perform flexion and extension functions. It is true that they do not need to perform too much in the event. flexibility. Based on the principle of specific needs, it is of little significance to perform knee circle exercises in individual running preparation activities, but as of now, there is no scientific basis to show that it is a wrong action that will 100% cause injury as long as it is done. Of course, no movement is 100% guaranteed to prevent injury. (No matter any training or exercise method, there will be risks like stock trading. We need to make reasonable judgments and adjustments based on the current physical and mental state)

If you are worried and from the perspective of risk avoidance, there are so many warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after exercise, we only need to simply change them.

Alternative warm-up exercises you can consider:

Standing Hip Controlled Rotation

Stand on your right leg and raise your left knee to a 90-degree angle with your left hip. Engage your core, keep your pelvis in a neutral position, and place your hands on your hips for balance. Rotate your left knee outward, then down and toward your midline, then return to the starting position—think of it as drawing a circle in the air with your knee. The tempo here is slow and controlled; be sure to keep your pelvis and lower back as still as possible while doing this move.

Repeat 5 – 10 times on each side for about 60 seconds.

side bend lunge

Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart, engage your core, and place your hands on your hips. Take a big step forward with your left foot. Bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle to lower until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your knee is centered over your ankle. Bend your right knee slightly as you lift your right heel off the floor. When you feel stable, place your left forearm on your left thigh and extend your right arm straight above your head, keeping the right side of your body length. Then bend your torso to the left while extending your right arm to the left and overhead.

Hold for 5 seconds. Return to standing and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for approximately 60 seconds.

hip flexor stretch

Standing straight, engaging your core, bend your right leg, lift your right heel toward your right hip, and grab your right ankle with your right hand. Pull your ankles toward your hips, feeling a stretch up the length of your quads toward the front of your hips. Hold your breath and repeat on the other side.

Hold for 5 seconds. Return to standing and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for approximately 60 seconds.

side squat stretch

Stand up straight with your feet apart and your toes pointing forward. Hold your hands in front of your chest for balance. Shift your weight onto your right foot and bend your right knee while lowering your hips back, as if you were sitting in a chair, while keeping your left leg straight. Make sure your right knee doesn’t move forward past your right toes. The goal is to keep your right thigh as horizontal as possible. You should feel a stretch in the left inner thigh muscle.

Hold this position for 5 seconds, then switch to the other side. Repeat for 60 seconds.