Suzie Says...Train Those Knees!
Updated: Jun 29
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment. Please seek a professional assessment before undertaking a new exercise program especially if you have any medical conditions, any previous or current injuries or other health / physical concerns. If you undertake any of the exercises within this article you do so at your own risk.
Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only and are not under my control and may change or be removed at any time.
For this edition of 'Suzie Says...' I have asked fellow enduro rider Ben Doran (in association with champion powerlifter Lewis Salter) for their input and to give a different perspective, more suitable for the 'gym-goers' out there. See the bottom of the page for Lewis' many credentials!
Here's what Ben had to say:
With off road riding whether it be short sprints, motocross motos, enduro or long distance riding, your main focus is minimising your chance of injury by increasing strength and prolonging performance at your desired discipline on your desired bike and this will in turn, aid in your ability, comfort while riding and afterwards in your recovery periods, and thus increasing the longevity you will have as a rider.
Your training all depends on your level of riding as well as the time you have in your schedule to exercise. This section of advice is based around the assumption that we all have to go to work and have other commitments and is it’s very basic form meaning you’ll be in and out your gym in around an hour.
Here is some knee anatomy if you're keen to see what's involved in how it works:
REMEMBER: COMPOUND exercises are key, especially for the time conscious.
To protect and strengthen your knees off the motorcycle, which, if you think about it are mostly supported and controlled by ligaments (ACL, PCL, MCL, LCL) your best course of action is making sure the entire leg is as strong as possible.
An ideal leg session given the above factors and for general riding would be as follows:
- SQUATS - VERY IMPORTANT - if you can’t do anything else, this is what you need to focus on. (And it’ll give you a killer beach bum).
- LEG PRESS
- CALF RAISE
- QUAD EXTENSION
- HAMSTRING CURLS
For each exercise, I tend to set a weight to have a set range of 8-15 reps and do this for four sets.
If you’re hitting 15+ reps, the weight is too low. If you’re just hitting 8, the weight is too high.
Before ALL workouts, make sure to warm up sufficiently.
Personally, due to ACL injuries I’ve sustained, I split my leg workout over the week while healing just before my main workout and even after healing, I have found this more beneficial than a specific “leg day” regarding my riding and overall health of my joints.
All of this is wasted effort if your bike is not set up for YOU. Riding style, position of feet on pegs, angle of foot controls, height/angle of bars and riding technique all come in to play and run hand in hand with your strength, fitness and overall protection when it comes to your knees.
The most important thing for prolonging the life of your frightfully fragile knees is a set of knee braces!
The sound of these strike fear in to the hearts and wallets of a lot of riders as they assume massive price tags so they often settle with pads, which served me well for a couple of years until a crash spun my guard and I received a serious impact to my ACL and it was at that injury that pushed me to start my research.
You DO NOT have to spend thousands per leg regarding knee braces and in fact, you can get a fantastic set of braces for less than £500. I currently use Alpinestars Fluid Knee Braces and find these absolutely fantastic with brilliant patella/ACL protection, a high upper cuff and great shin coverage. I have used these for trail riding, hard Enduro, slow games trials esque riding as well as hare and hounds type riding. I have odd shaped legs yet these do not migrate and after a ride or two to get used to the brace, are barely noticeable and I would go as far as saying that they pushed me out of bad habits and have improved my riding and foot position.
Photo by Michnus Olivier @ PikiPikiOverland.com
For a similar price bracket, you can get:
Leatt C frames - they have no inside frame so you can hug the bike with your knees as you did before braces (keep the bare inner knee in mind when considering impacts). Pod K4 - a fantastic brace but if you have larger thighs or are much taller, opt for the AStars or Leatt due to their double hinge and length. EVS Axis - (at a bit more of a push towards price wise).
CTi Braces - prices vary.
Make sure to find an outlet with a few different types (most shops will be happy to measure you).
Also, take your trousers, boots and if possible, try them on and sit and stand on a bike in the dealership.
DO NOT LEAVE WITH UNCOMFORTABLE BRACES.
Braces will sit wider and will feel alien for the first ride or two but trust me, you’ll feel the benefit.
Not only will the braces protect you but they will force the leg out of many tiny bad habits you didn’t realise you had and it will make the knee work in its most basic of functions meaning no unintentional and unwanted rotations or movements while riding.
Again, please remember that this is the very barest of bones and basically an introduction to further bike related training and to maintain you as much as possible right now.
Thanks Ben (and Lewis) for all of your input.
Lewis Salter has achieved many things in his career as a powerlifter, including becoming the 140kg junior Gold medalist twice and achieving 3rd place overall as a junior against opens (over 24's). He holds nine British records!! The first three were the 300kg squat, 185kg Bench and 260kg deadlift, which obviously includes a record breaking total. Four months after that was the 340kg squat, 195kg Bench and 320kg deadlift. Not only are all of these amazing achievements, but he achieved it all as a junior (under 24)!
Photo Attributions below:
Squats photo: By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons FROM https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Squats-2.png
Leg press photo: By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons FROM https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leg-press-2-1024x670.png
Calf raise photo: By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons FROM https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Standing-calf-raises-2.gif
Quad extension photo: By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons FROM https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leg-extensions-1-672x1024.png
Hamstring curl photo: By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons FROM https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seated-leg-curl-2.png
Knee Anatomy photo: By OpenStax College [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons FROM https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:917_Knee_Joint.jpg
Leatt knee brace photo: Michnus Olivier @ PikiPikiOverland.com