Knee pain exercises are one of the best things you can do to reduce knee pain, weakness, stiffness and swelling. Here we will look at some great leg exercises to get you started. Once you are happy with these leg exercises, you can progress onto intermediate and then advanced exercises.
These knee exercises are designed to increase the strength of your knee and how much you can move it – knee’s often get a bit weak and stiff when there’s a problem. These knee pain exercises are generally suitable in the early stages following an injury or surgery or for those people who are just starting out with knee exercises.
Exercises should feel challenging but not painful. See the Top Tips on Exercising section before you start to get the most out of these knee pain exercises. With any knee problem, you should always see your doctor before you begin exercising, but once you get the all clear, you’re ready to go.
Purpose: Maintain and strengthen the Quads without moving the knee, enable full straightening of the knee
Starting position: Lying flat on your back or sitting up. Leg and knee straight
Action: Tighten the muscle on the front of the thigh by pushing your knee down. You should feel your thigh muscles clench. Hold for 3 secs
Repetition: Repeat 10-20x every 3-4 hours
Variations: If you are struggling to get your knee to straighten fully, place a rolled up towel underneath the ankle so that your leg is lifted slightly on the bed. Then do the exercise as described. Lifting the leg up slightly lets gravity help the knee to straighten
Purpose: Strengthen the quads without much knee movement
Starting Position: Lying flat on your back or sitting up with your leg horizontal on a flat surface such as a bed. Place a rolled up towel (approx 10cm diameter) under the knee.
Action: Pull your toes towards you and clench you thigh muscles. Slowly lift your foot up off the bed until your knee is straight (keep your knee resting on the towel). Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly lower
Repetition: repeat 10-20 times, 3x daily
Progression: 1) Increase the size of the towel under the knee
2) Add a weight eg by wearing a shoe, or using a light ankle weight. Progress further by using a heavier weight
Purpose: Strengthen the Quads muscles without bending the knee NB Do not do this if you have a history of back problems
Starting position: Lying flat on your back. Leg and knee straight
Action: Pull your toes towards you and tighten/clench the muscle on the front of the thigh, locking your knee straight. Lift your foot up about 6 inches off the bed. Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly lower. Ensure your knee stays straight the whole time
Repetition: repeat 10-20 times, 2x daily
Progression: Add a weight eg by wearing a shoe, or using an ankle weight.
Purpose: Strengthen quads, increase knee movement, great to do if sitting for long periods (30mins+)- stops the knee getting stiff
Starting position: Sitting on a firm chair with your knee bent and your foot on the floor
Action: Lift your foot up and straighten your knee as much as possible. Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly lower. Then bend your knee back as far as you can
Repetition: 5-20 times, 3x daily
Progression: 1) Strengthen further by adding a weight either by wearing a shoe or ankle weights
2) To increase knee flexion further, when you’ve slid your foot back as far as you can, gently slide your bottom forwards in the chair whilst keeping your foot still
Purpose: A great knee pain exercise to increase Quads strength without putting weight through the knee joint
Starting Position: Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor
Action: March your legs up and down one at a time. Lift your knee and foot up and then back down
Repetition: Repeat for about 1 minute, 2x daily and any time you are sitting for more than 20 minutes to stop your knee getting stiff
Progression: Add a weight eg by wearing shoes or using ankle weights
Purpose: Improve the strength of hamstrings and mobility of the knee
Starting Position: Stand up straight holding on to something stable eg chair or table
Action: Lift your foot up as far as you can towards your bottom, bending the knee. Hold for 3-5 secs
Repetition: Repeat 5-25 times, 2x daily
Progression: Add a weight eg shoe or ankle weight
Note: 1) Don’t bend forwards - keep your body upright 2) keep your knees in line with each other- don’t let your thigh come forwards
Purpose: Strengthen the calf muscles to help support the knee. Co-ordinate knee and ankle movement
Starting position: Stand with your feet slightly apart, weight equally distributed, holding onto something solid for balance eg kitchen work surface or wall.
Action: Rise up onto your toes lifting your heels as high as possible. Keep your body upright (don’t bend forwards). Hold for 3-5 secs and slowly lower
Repetition: Repeat 10-30 times, 2x daily
Purpose: One of my favourite knee pain exercises as it improves knee mobility, strengthens both quads and glutes and improves general fitness
Starting position: Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor
Action: Lean forwards, lift your bottom, stand up straight and then sit back down
Repetition: Repeat 10-30x
Adaptations: To make the exercise easier: 1) Push up through you arms 2) Use a higher chair.
To make the exercise harder:
1) Increase you speed 2) Use a lower chair 3) Hold a weight
Do the knee pain exercises that work best for you. They should be moderately challenging but not painful. See the Knee Exercise overview for tips on working at the right level for you and getting the most out of your exercises.
Once you have done these knee pain exercises for a few weeks, you should have built up the number of repetitions of each exercise and they should be starting to feel quite easy. When that is the case, CONGRATULATIONS! You are ready to progress on to the intermediate and then advanced knee pain exercises to help build up more strength and flexibility.
© knee-pain-explained.com 2010-2013.
Updated 30th April 2013
All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions apply
“This is one of the best self-help & info sites of any medical condition I've ever seen. Excellent work.” Amy, UK
“Thanks to KPE.com. Lots of improvement after just two days.” Suresh, India
"Superb site, many thanks, so much helpful content especially the targeted strengthening exercises for me.” Gerri, UK
"This is the best self-help site I have ever seen for knee pain. It is very difficult to find such a comprehensive volume of information on one site without being advised to "Just purchase this product!" Many, many thanks" Jennifer, US
“Thank you so much Chloe, your response makes so much sense. Thank you again for your time in answering my questions.” Cynthia, US
"Thanks for this wonderful site." Anil, Canada
"This is the best site dealing with knee problems that I have come
across. I will be putting the stretches and exercises into practise. Thank you!"
Margaret, S. Africa