Strengthen your hamstrings to reduce knee pain.
Runner's knee is a generic term for pain around the knee joint. It usually includes symptoms of pain on or around the kneecap and can be caused by a number of factors, including dislocation, injury, tightness or weakness. Upon developing runner's knee, you should visit your doctor. Provided you're given the all-clear to exercise, strength-training exercises such as the Romanian deadlift can be beneficial in the rehab process and preventing runner's knee in the future.
Say Hello to the Hamstrings
The hamstrings have a very important role to play when running, as they're the muscles responsible for propelling you forward. If your hamstrings are weak, not only will your running performance be compromised, but you may also find yourself more susceptible to injury.
Running With Romanians
The Romanian deadlift -- or RDL -- is similar to a regular barbell deadlift. It involves slightly less knee bend and a little more movement from the hips than a conventional deadlift however, making it more hamstring-dominant. The glutes are worked to a high degree too. With a regular deadlift, you would also put the bar down and re-set after every repetition, whereas you need more of a touch-and-go technique with Romanian deadlifts. Touch the bar to the floor on every rep, but lift it straight back up, while keeping a natural arch in your lower back.
A Better Variation
While the Romanian deadlift can be highly beneficial for strengthening the hamstrings and reducing injury risk for runners, there is a variation that may be better. Strength coach Jon-Erik Kawamoto suggests the single-legged Romanian deadlift instead. Hold a dumbbell in one hand, or one dumbbell in each hand, lift one leg off the floor, then perform the same movement as you would for the barbell version. This is more functional for runners as you work each leg individually and it requires more core control and knee stability.
Include Romanian deadlifts, or a variation of them, in two sessions each week. Train with weights once every three to four days and start each session with either barbell or dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, or a single-legged variation. Kawamoto recommends performing two to five sets of five to eight reps. Along with these, include a squat variation, such as back squats, front squats or dumbbell squats and another single-legged exercise -- lunges or split squats for instance -- to improve your knee stability and hamstring strength.