Strong Knees

Chantal Donnelly
Year Released: 2008

Categories: Lower Body Strength , Special Health Conditions

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This Gaiam DVD presents a series of rehabilitative exercises and stretches designed to prevent and reduce knee pain.

Equipment needed is minimal – a mat, a rolled towel to place between the knees for some of the exercises (a pillow or small ball will also work), and a chair (mainly for balance during standing exercises, but the chair seat is used in one exercise). For one exercise you will also need a bit of wall space you can lean against.

The set is a dark indoor space with lots of natural wood, lightened with flower bouquets – very pretty. Music is typical Gaiam, pleasant but forgettable.

The instructor is Chantal Donnelly. She instructs live, except for the last (stretching) segment which is in voiceover. There are two background exercisers who demonstrate modifications if needed.

The DVD is put out by Gaiam, and I swear they did everything they could to make this DVD a pain to use. But the exercises are solid and well-taught by Chantal.

Unfortunately, the DVD begins with commercials for several other Gaiam productions, which you cannot skip (very tacky, Gaiam!). After all the commercials comes the main menu: Play, Scene Index, and Bonus Features. The Scene Index breaks down the exercises by body part as follows:

Quadriceps, Hip Adductors & Hip Flexors. Exercises are seated straight leg raise and wall slides (which are tough!).

Hamstrings. Exercises are bridges done first with feet on the ground, then up on a chair seat.

Calves. Exercises are two-legged and one-legged standing calf raises.

Gluteus Medius. Exercises are the clam, followed by side-lying straight leg lifts and circles.

Gluteus Maximus. Exercises are standing and prone rear leg lifts.

Stretching. This is a 13 minute routine, during which each stretch is held for 30 seconds.

Each body part section actually begins with a mini-lecture about the area in question, including anatomy and why injury or pain may occur. This material is interesting, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to sit through it more than once or twice. Unfortunately there is no chapter point between the lecture and the start of the exercises. Therefore, in order to use the entire routine most effectively, go to Bonus Features and select Design Your Own Routine. This brings up a list of all the exercises, from which you select the ones you want to do (and in any order) without having to sit through any lectures. However, since all the exercises done together (except the Stretching) takes only 15 minutes, I have no idea why Gaiam couldn’t have simply made an option from the main menu to play exercises only without the lectures.

Also in the Bonus Features is 7 Minutes To Save Your Knees. This little routine includes a few of the strengthening exercises from above, plus several leg and glute stretches. I think it would be excellent to do after cardio.

Bottom line: I feel mixed about this DVD. On the plus side, it is a very well-taught knee-strengthening routine that doesn’t neglect stretching. It is an attractive production and Chantal is a very good instructor. However, the DVD is unnecessarily difficult to use, and I find the opening Gaiam commercials irritating. Also, for not much more money, you can purchase other rehabilitative DVDs -- Total Body Solution with Debbie Siebers, Fitness Fix with Denise Beatty, or Rehab Your Body At Home with J.B. Berns -- which present routines for several areas of the body, not just the knees. In addition, the exercises presented in Strong Knees are already present on many other workouts I own, particularly Classical Stretch and Winsor Pilates Bun & Thigh Sculpting, as well as the other rehab DVDs I just listed. All of the above makes it hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend Strong Knees.

Instructor Comments:
Chantal Donnelly is described on the DVD cover as an “active physical therapist, massage therapist and certified Pilates instructor.” Her instruction is clear, and she presents in a pleasant, personable manner (although she has an unfortunate tendency to say "you guys" quite a bit).