Photo by Jayme Thornton

The Best Exercises for Strengthening Hyperextended Knees

If you're one of the lucky dancers #blessed with hyperextended knees, you know that while they're super-pretty to look at, they're also super-prone to injury. Dance Spirit asked Sean P. Gallagher, BFA, PT, CFT, CPT, MS, and founder of Performing Arts Physical Therapy in NYC, about the most effective strengthening moves for hyperextension.

Photos by Jayme Thornton. Modeled by Sarah Meahl.

Exercise #1 – Skeletal Alignment Awareness Knee Sink

PT's Note: This exercise will discourage you from constantly standing in hyperextension by training your mind and muscles to be aware of your knee position.

1. Start standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Allow yourself to relax into your what feels like your "normal" standing position, with your knees hyperextended but not locked.

2. Slowly sink down and bend your knees, then return to your neutral, hyperextended stance. Repeat this 5 times.

3. Repeat step 2, but stop just before you hit your hyperextended stance. Your legs should be straight, but they might not feel fully extended. Repeat this 10 times.

Exercise #2 – Hamstring Stretch

PT's Note: This exercise encourages hamstring stability, as your hamstrings are key tendons in maintaining a proper, non-hyperextended standing position.

1. Start facing a barre or table that's a little more than hip height.

2. Place your right foot and ankle on the barre or tabletop, keeping both legs and your torso straight and both legs in parallel. Make sure your knees aren't hyperextended, but in "normal" position from Exercise #1.

3. Keeping both legs in parallel, lean your torso towards your leg, keeping your spine straight and making sure to hinge forward from your hip socket.

4. Repeat this stretch with your raised leg turned out. Switch legs and repeat each stretch.

Exercise #3 – Theraband Strengthening for the Knees

Position A

1. Tie a Theraband in a loop around a stationary object. Step your left leg inside the loop and position the Theraband behind your knee. Walk backwards until there's tension in the band.

2. Keeping both legs planted firmly on the ground, slowly bend and straighten your left leg 10 times, making sure to avoid hyperextending the knee. Switch legs and repeat the exercise.

Position B

1. Turn your body around and step back into the Theraband with your right leg. Place the Theraband on your thigh, just above your knee.

2. Slowly bend and straighten your right leg 10 times, making sure to remain in "normal" position, and avoid hyperextending the knee. Switch legs and repeat the exercise.

A version of this story appeared in the January 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Calling All #Hype Girls."

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