Movement/footwork for less stress on knees?

InSydeOut

Rookie
Hi all,

After playing for 2hrs my knees feel unstable and fatigued. I'm okay after a days rest but I want to play more often. I do need to get new shoes but that is more of a band-aid than solving the real issue. Wondering if there is a deliberate way to practice moving in a way that will put less stress on knees?

I have a pretty big split step, and change directions more like a nfl running back since I cant really slide.. I feel a more laid back approach is necessary for longevity at this point. I avoid doing squat workouts consistently as I lift on my off days and don't want to risk further injury to my already sensitive knee.

Currently testing if I can transfer more of the stress and impact towards my groin as opposed to my knees, basically using way more of my glutes and hamstrings instead of my quads. Any other thoughts appreciated.

Its funny all the tennis old timers I play with have multiple knee surgeries and a limp. I want to avoid that fate, if that's even possible.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
I've been using Nike Air Monarch shoes for tennis for the past 2 decades. They are a x-trainer shoe with outstanding cushioning in both the midsole and the insole. They also provide good heel support.

For proper arch support, you might add a suitable insert or orthotic that is appropriate for your feet. I use semi-custom 3/4 orthotic inserts from Dr Scholl's right on top of the existing insole. (But with full length inserts you are usually required to remove the OEM insole. That is why I prefer the 3/4 insert). For the proper CustomFit inserts from DS, you need to use one of their foot-mapping kiosks that can be found at some drug store chains and elsewhere.

These insoles go for $50 USD which is a lot cheaper than a true custom orthotic (which can cost hundreds of dollars). However, the true custom orthotic should be superior since they are supposed to account for both static (pressure) & dynamic functions of your feet & legs

You might try a modified SS (split step) to produce less shock to your feet, ankles, knees & hips. I sometimes refer to it as a geriatric SS but it can also be a good option for overweight players or others who have issues with their feet & legs. Let me dig up a recent posting of this alternative SS
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
Check out the 3rd paragraph here for a description of my alternative SS:

 

InSydeOut

Rookie
You talk about NFL and lifting, from that I am guessing your a big guy? If you have too much mass you will struggle to play multiple long matches without risking joint damage.
I wouldn't say I am big, but I played similar high impact sports when I was younger. The footwork is much more linear than tennis.

I've been using Nike Air Monarch shoes for tennis for the past 2 decades. They are a x-trainer shoe with outstanding cushioning in both the midsole and the insole. They also provide good heel support.

For proper arch support, you might add a suitable insert or orthotic that is appropriate for your feet. I use semi-custom 3/4 orthotic inserts from Dr Scholl's right on top of the existing insole. (But with full length inserts you are usually required to remove the OEM insole. That is why I prefer the 3/4 insert). For the proper CustomFit inserts from DS, you need to use one of their foot-mapping kiosks that can be found at some drug store chains and elsewhere.

These insoles go for $50 USD which is a lot cheaper than a true custom orthotic (which can cost hundreds of dollars). However, the true custom orthotic should be superior since they are supposed to account for both static (function) & dynamic actions of your feet.

You might try a modified SS (split step) to produce less shock to your feet, ankles, knees & hips. I sometimes refer to it as a geriatric SS but it can also be a good option for overweight players or others who have issues with their feet & legs. Let me dig up a recent posting of this alternative SS
I thought about this post. It is possible that my knees are not in ideal alignment when I am in an athletic stance or taking strides or anything that might stress the joint and so a proper orthotic might actually help in this case. There is a place that does custom work near my place so I will stop by and ask.
 

PKorda

Semi-Pro
My unprofessional opinion would be to try and strengthen your knees without doing squats, or at least heavy weights, try lunges with moderate weights, or even squats with light weights, there's probably other exercises as well if look into it.
 

Hagberg

Rookie
Do like Andy Murray...
Focus intensely on reading and anticipating the opponent and start running a tiny bit earlier. The extra time makes a world of difference.
 

PKorda

Semi-Pro
Do like Andy Murray...
Focus intensely on reading and anticipating the opponent and start running a tiny bit earlier. The extra time makes a world of difference.
You still have to change direction, it's the exact same movement only sooner.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Get lighter in weight.
After that, degeneration will take it's course.
There are few 6' tall tennis players..4 hours a day, 6 days a week, over 180 lbs.
 

eah123

Professional
The only thing that has eliminated my knee pain has been playing almost entirely on clay, only occasional hard court play. Before that I suffered from horrible knee bursitis every year that only got better by taking 3 months off during the winter. Now I can play year round 3-5 days/week!
 

SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
My unprofessional opinion would be to try and strengthen your knees without doing squats, or at least heavy weights, try lunges with moderate weights, or even squats with light weights, there's probably other exercises as well if look into it.
Squats are supposed to be easier on knees than seated leg extensions and leg curls. Light weights only for these seated leg exercises.

Some sources have claimed that a full squat (thighs close to parallel to the ground) might be better & easier on knees than half squats.

Extreme, Asian sitting squats, might be tough on knees for those who are not flexible enuff to do them
 

socallefty

Legend
Change your shoes. Often, a new pair of well-fitting shoes makes a huge difference. When your knee or feet/Achilles start talking to you, it is generally a sign to change shoes as the support is gone even if the sole looks great. I have to change GR8, Barricades etc. every 50-60 hours on hard courts as my lower body aches after that.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
The Health and Fitness Forum has more posts on injuries and conditioning.

This kind of problem needs a well qualified Dr for a certain diagnosis and treatment.

I had meniscus surgery and was prescribed a Donjoy knee brace for tennis, carbon fiber, custom made for my knee, hinged. I wore it for about 3 years for tennis, as part of my post surgery protection for tennis. I believe that brace may have limited my femur from moving forward more than it should do. Not sure now after 20 years.

When the Dr said I could stop wearing the brace for tennis, I decided to wear it for about 2 more years. That brace was protective of surgery for my particular meniscus injury. I had a great Dr.

After other injuries, I would request a posture examination and a prescription for physical therapy for any issue that was found. I recommend that everyone take that same approach and get on top of posture problems. I have posted on some of them, but do not now remember the details.

For certain, do not apply amateur fixes to an undiagnosed injury or condition.

I had knee pain that turned out to be from tight rectus femoris, the one quad that attaches above the hip joint. . These muscles in thigh were causing injury to the cartilages under my knee caps. Associated with anterior pelvic tilt. Under the knee cap is a very common location for early arthritis.

Inform yourself about the posture problems of the knee and other body areas that may affect the knee. But don't treat yourself. You will need some imaging, X rays, MRI's, etc.

Google: posture problems knee pictures
You can click on pictures to go to the website with the picture

Search: knee posture NCBI PCM
For example,


Study common knee injuries associated with your weight lifting and squating. I would search what Eric Cressey has to say on knees and exercises.

To start any new issue- get some pictures
Google: knee posture problems pictures
You can click on the pictures and go to the website if you want to.

 
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SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
My unprofessional opinion would be to try and strengthen your knees without doing squats, or at least heavy weights, try lunges with moderate weights, or even squats with light weights, there's probably other exercises as well if look into it.
Lunges are good. Dynamic (walking or alternating) lunges prior to tennis. Static lunges after tennis. Leg presses can be an alternative to squats. They are better than sitting leg extensions & hamstring curls. The latter 2 exercises should probably only done with fairly light loads
 

vex

Legend
Hi all,

After playing for 2hrs my knees feel unstable and fatigued. I'm okay after a days rest but I want to play more often. I do need to get new shoes but that is more of a band-aid than solving the real issue. Wondering if there is a deliberate way to practice moving in a way that will put less stress on knees?

I have a pretty big split step, and change directions more like a nfl running back since I cant really slide.. I feel a more laid back approach is necessary for longevity at this point. I avoid doing squat workouts consistently as I lift on my off days and don't want to risk further injury to my already sensitive knee.

Currently testing if I can transfer more of the stress and impact towards my groin as opposed to my knees, basically using way more of my glutes and hamstrings instead of my quads. Any other thoughts appreciated.

Its funny all the tennis old timers I play with have multiple knee surgeries and a limp. I want to avoid that fate, if that's even possible.
There are two things I think you can do:
- identify high impact movements and try to cut those down. For instance my knees take a pounding as part of my serve follow thru.
- play more aggressively so you aren’t defending as much. Develop weapons with your serve, FH, DTL BH. When you must defend be smart about it, little point in running down a great shot if all you can do is barely pop it back over for your opponent to finish. Pick your spots. Definitely don’t kill your self down 0-40 on your opponents serve.
 

yossarian

Professional
Not the most typical thing in the world unless you’re a runner with hip weakness

people like to say “I have a tight IT band.” Well yeah. It’s supposed to be tight. Definitely not the source of most knee pain you see

Even so, regardless of the true diagnosis, most conservative treatment is going to consistent of pretty much the same exercises
 

InSydeOut

Rookie
Squats are supposed to be easier on knees than seated leg extensions and leg curls. Light weights only for these seated leg exercises.

Some sources have claimed that a full squat (thighs close to parallel to the ground) might be better & easier on knees than half squats.

Extreme, Asian sitting squats, might be tough on knees for those who are not flexible enuff to do them
I love deep squats and my knees normally feel stronger after doing them. But I have been avoiding them while my knees are banged up.

I'm prescribing you some GP Turbos and Orange Triad.
GP Turbos gave me the worst chronic knee pain. Not sure if it is the weight or what but it sucks because I have the Agassi versions sized perfectly and I really wanted to like them! Now they are just collecting dust.

There are two things I think you can do:
- identify high impact movements and try to cut those down. For instance my knees take a pounding as part of my serve follow thru.
- play more aggressively so you aren’t defending as much. Develop weapons with your serve, FH, DTL BH. When you must defend be smart about it, little point in running down a great shot if all you can do is barely pop it back over for your opponent to finish. Pick your spots. Definitely don’t kill your self down 0-40 on your opponents serve.
Also the impact is one thing but I think in order to get power from the ground up we torque our knees somewhat at some point in our technique and that strain is also something I am trying to be hyper aware about and fix.
 
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ubercat

Professional
Get some of those compression sleeves for the knee tighter the better. I ve had 10 years pain free from those. The best ones are a brand called body assist they have a spiral metal coil down each edge of the knee. It sits inside a little pocket so you can take it out when you wash them
 

InSydeOut

Rookie
Sleeves are well and good but getting back to movement and footwork, is there a pro that comes to mind to emulate in terms of minimization of knee strain and impact?
Not sure what specifically to look for, but im guessing someone whose feet stay low to the ground and not too much of a jump integrated into their strokes, more heel to toe steps, etc.
 

Fintft

Legend
Change your shoes. Often, a new pair of well-fitting shoes makes a huge difference. When your knee or feet/Achilles start talking to you, it is generally a sign to change shoes as the support is gone even if the sole looks great. I have to change GR8, Barricades etc. every 50-60 hours on hard courts as my lower body aches after that.
That and replace the stock insoles (I use Dr Scholl's active ones).
Also weight plays a big factor.

I had a knee scare yesterday, re-starting to play on red clay indoor after 1 month lockdown.
An older meniscus injury (I think) flared up and the knee would hurt moving to my left.
So I stopped and warmed a bit more (properly this time) and it went away.

I also tried to relax a bit and have a lower posture, split stepping(low not big like yours) and preparing early/anticipating- It semed to helped.
I had trained, doing jumps and such during the tennis layoff, but not enough + I had gained too much weight.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Sleeves are well and good but getting back to movement and footwork, is there a pro that comes to mind to emulate in terms of minimization of knee strain and impact?
Not sure what specifically to look for, but im guessing someone whose feet stay low to the ground and not too much of a jump integrated into their strokes, more heel to toe steps, etc.
Heel to toes steps seems questionable for reducing stress on knees. ? As usual for years, my heels hit too heavy as I walk.

Better to have a well qualified specialist than to figure things out. If money is short get a second job and pay for the specialist.

When I watch pro strokes and pro court coverage, the court coverage looks more stressful to me. Do you have an MRI and diagnosis of your knee injury?

Remembering as best I can, do not trust - When I tore my meniscus in 1998, the Dr, looking at my MRI thought that maybe a knee ligament could have some damage. He thought that maybe the loose knee ligament played a part in my meniscus tear. That possibility figured in the prescription for the Donjoy when I went back to playing tennis.

Stop playing and stressing your knee when it is injured.

Take videos of your movement and look for stressful footwork habits.
 

ubercat

Professional
Bit dismissive but I LL try again. Sleeves provide some immediate help by stabilising the knee with your current footwork.

The knee is a hinge joint. If it wobbles or has too much impact that's when trouble starts.

Today you could buy sleeves and insoles, start squats and foam rolling - tight calves are another cause. And do lying down figure 4 stretch. That would all help prevent further damage while you are changing footwork.

Male tennis players are prone to tight inner thigh and hip flexors. That makes your knee collapse inward and as Chas shared that can loosen up the knee ligaments that take the load of that wobble
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
@ubercat
Play on clay if you can - there has got to be a club somewhere nearby with clay. Movement on hard courts is tough if you have balky knees.
Clay courts are not common in this area. Exclusive clubs which means access is not cheap. In 4+ decades of playing tennis in the SF Bay Area I have only had an opportunity to play on clay twice -- back in the 80s.

But, alas, that club decided that they were too costly to keep up & replace them with several indoor hard parts. An ATP tournament in the South Bay, most recently the SAP Open used these indoor hard courts as a 2nd venue, until the demise of that long-running event after 2013
 
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eah123

Professional
If clay courts are not available, check if any of the hard courts in your area are “cushioned hard courts.” The public courts are slowly being converted to this kind in my area, about 1 court every 2 years. When you play on them, the balls don’t bounce as high, but they are definitely easier on your knees.
 

chic

Professional
@InSydeOut I think kneesovertoesguy on YouTube has a lot of content that could probably help you out. His methods are new and not peer reviewed, but some of the more basic movements seem to be supported by the PTs who review him (walking backwards with weight especially)

With knees in particular it's probably worth a professional opinion. Non-impact acl and mcl tears are not always recognizable as such if you retain functionality, and if you have a partial tear you don't want it to go all the way.

Even if you don't need/go the surgery route it could identify where the instability is originating.

Working out the ankles, core and hips would also probably take a lot of strain off the knees, as they're all connected.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
Shoes with support and good midsole cushioning can offset the harshness of hard courts. Insole cushioning might help a bit as well.

Float like a butterfly like Ali or Federer. Nadal or Djoko-style movement undoubtedly much harsher on the feet / legs. Way too many g's.
 
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pencilcheck

Hall of Fame
Probably only good if you have the physique for it and have been doing them for most of your life. Not a good idea for a middle-age or older guy who has an issue with his knees and did not grow up with the Asian squat
you should really try it, asian squat uses no knee, it uses hips instead. that's why they can squat so long and feel nothing. it has nothing to do with age. just understanding of human body.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Bionic Poster
you should really try it, asian squat uses no knee, it uses hips instead. that's why they can squat so long and feel nothing. it has nothing to do with age. just understanding of human body.
Wrong on almost all counts.

What makes you think that I've never attempted it? While most, if not all, Asians can perform the Asian squat, the vast majority (87%) of North Americans, Europeans and other non-Asians are incapable of this extreme squat. This ability is largely genetic. Relative limb lengths, knee anatomy and other factors play into this ability -- especially with middle-aged and older Caucasians

Also, for non-Asians, age is a huge factor. At 30 I could come closer than I can now (pushing 70). Less flexibility in both knees now than 40 years ago. Serious left hip issues... almost no hip flexion in left hip... avascular necrosis, largely from over use, which will require a hip replacement. Even after the hip replacement, this squat will not be possible since a hip dislocation is highly likely for a posterior replacement

 
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