Knee Strengthening Exercises

Knee strengthening exercises are one of the best ways to cure knee pain. People who do them have less pain, recover quicker from knee problems, function better and have less chance of problems recurring in the future.

Knee strengthening exercises can be used to help relieve knee pain and sometimes even prevent various causes of knee pain. Whenever there is weakness in the knee muscles, it means the knee joint is less well supported, resulting in more weight going through the bones, therefore making knee problems much more likely.

Where To Start

There are so many different knee strengthening exercises out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Here I share with you my favourite exercises grouped by muscle – easy to perform, quick, effective and suitable for most people.

1) Quads Strengthening: Front thigh muscles that straighten the knee
2) Hamstring Strengthening: Back thigh muscles that bend the knee
3) Glutes Strengthening: Buttock muscles play a crucial role in controlling then knee
4) Calf Strengthening: Lower leg muscles that control the foot
5) Combination Strengthening: Strengthen all the muscle groups at once
6) Balance Training: How to improve your balance

Pick and choose the ones you find challenging but not painful. If they are too easy for you, visit the Intermediate and Advanced knee strengthening exercise sections.

To find out how to exercise safely and effectively, visit the sections on How to Exercise Right and Getting the Best Results.


Quads Knee Strengthening Exercises


These are the muscles at the front of the thigh that straighten the knee. Weak quads is one of the most common causes of knee pain.

1) Quad Clenches

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 knee up slightly lets gravity help the knee to straighten

2) Short Arcs

Purpose: Strengthen the quads muscles without much knee movement

Short arcs: Knee strengthening exercise. Approved Use by HEP2go.com

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

3) Straight Leg Raise

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 to be worked straight, other leg bent

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: 1) Add a weight eg by wearing a shoe, or using an ankle weight.

4) Long Arcs

Purpose: Strengthen quads, increase knee mobility, great to do anytime sitting for prolonged periods (30mins+) to stop 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

Repetition: 5-20 times, 3xdaily

Progression: Strengthen further by adding a weight either by wearing a shoe or ankle weights.

5) Knee Marching

Purpose: 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

Progress to: Intermediate Quads Strengthening


Hamstring Strengthening Exercises


The Hamstrings are the muscles on the back of the thigh that bend the knee.

1) Hamstrings Clenches

Purpose: Strengthen the hamstrings muscles without having to move the knee

Starting Position: Sit in a chair with your heel against the leg of the chair and your feet firmly on the floor

Action: Press your heel firmly backwards into the chair leg feeling the back of your thigh tightening/clenching. Hold for 3-5 secs

Repetition: Do 10-20x, 2x daily

Note: The foot shouldn’t move during this exercise

2) Buttock Kicks

Purpose: Strengthen hamstrings without any weight going through the knee joint, increase knee mobility (flexion), aid circulation

Starting position: Lie on your tummy (on the floor or bed) with your legs straight

Action: Lift your foot off the floor and bring it towards your bottom as far as you can. Slowly return to the starting position

Repetition: Repeat 10-25x, 3x daily

Notes: 1) You are aiming to get your heel all the way to your bottom 2) Make the exercise easier by hooking your good leg underneath the bad and using it to help lift the bad leg up

Progression: Add a weight (eg a shoe or ankle weight)

3) Kick Backs

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: Do 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

4) The Bridge: Stage 1

Purpose: Excellent knee strengthening exercises for the hamstrings, quads and buttock muscles

Starting Position: Lie on your back with both knees bent about 90° and your feet on the floor/bed

Action: Clench your buttocks and lift your bottom off the bed as high as you can without arching your back. Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly lower

Repetitions: Repeat 10-25 times, 1-2x daily

Note: 1) Keep your back straight – don’t let it arch as you lift up, it should be your bottom doing the work 2) Don’t hold your breath – keep breathing normally

Progress to: Intermediate Hamstring Strengthening


Glutes Knee Strengthening Exercises


These are the buttock muscles, vital for ensuring the forces go through the knee evenly. The glutes are often forgotten about in knee strengthening exercises. Virtually everyone who suffers from knee pain has weak glutes, so they are well worth doing.

1) Buttock Clenches

Purpose: Maintain and strengthen the Glutes without the knee moving

Starting position: Lying down or sitting up.

Action: Clench your buttocks together and hold for 3 seconds. You should feel yourself rise up slightly

Repetition: Repeat 10-20x every 3-4 hours


2) The Clam

Purpose: Strengthen the glutes to help support the knee and prevent excessive weight going through the inner side of the knee – a must for anyone with knee pain!

Starting position: Lie on your side with your hip and knees bent approx 90°, feet together.

Action: Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up as high as you can. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly lower

Repetition: Repeat 10-25x on each side, 2x daily

Note: Do not let your top hip roll backwards

Progress to: Intermediate Glutes Strengthening


Calf Strengthening Exercises


The calf muscles can be found on the back of the leg between the knee and the ankle. The move the foot and ankle, and help support the knee.

1) Heel Raises

Purpose: Strengthen the calf muscles to help support the knee

Starting position: Stand with your feet slightly apart, weight equally distributed, holding onto something solid for balance eg kitchen worksurface 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

Progress to: Intermediate Calf Strengthening


Combination Knee
Strengthening Exercises


Here you will find knee strengthening exercises that work 2 or 3 muscle groups at the same time.

1) Sit to Stand

Purpose: improve knee mobility, strengthen quads and glutes, improve general fitness

Starting position: Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor

Action: Lean forwards, lift your bottom and stand up straight and then sit back down

Repetition: Repeat 10-30x

Notes: 1) You can make this exercise easier by pushing up through you arms too 2) The higher the chair, the easier the exercise

Progression: 1) Don’t use your arms 2) Use a lower chair 3) Increase the speed you do the exercise at 4) Hold a heavy weight – eg bag of books during the exercise

Progress to: Intermediate Combo Strengthening


Balance Retraining


Balance / proprioception is really important to prevent knee injuries, and is often reduced with knee arthritis. As a quick test to see whether you would benefit from this exercise try standing on 1 leg with your eyes closed. If you can’t do it for 1 minute, you would benefit from this exercise. This exercise helps your body learn the subtle adjustments needed for good balance.

1) One Leg Standing: Stage 1

One Leg Standing: Knee strengthening exercise. Approved Use by HEP2go.com

Starting position: Standing near a wall or chair for support

Action: Lift up your good leg and stand on one leg for as long as you can.  It is normal to wobble a bit

Repetition: Spend 5 minutes doing this 2x dailyeg when brushing your teeth

Progression: 1) Close your eyes and perform the exercise as above - you'll be surprised how much harder it is
2) Try Stage 2

Progress to: Intermediate Balance Training


What Next?

As your muscles get stronger, you will be able to increase the number of repetitions of each exercise.

You will probably need to do knee strengthening exercises at least 4 times a week for about a month before you notice much change in your knee pain.

When you feel ready, strengthen your muscles further by progressing on the Intermediate and Advanced knee strengthening exercises.

Go to Knee Exercise Guide or Homepage


Your Comments

Share your knee pain experiences with others, whether it be ideas, top tips, things that worked well for you, problems you've had etc.......

© knee-pain-explained.com 2010-2014
Updated 16th September 2014
All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions apply

Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Search

The material on this website is intended for educational information purposes only.  It should not substitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


KneePainExp

See Also

Advanced Strengthening Exs

Knee Braces: Would they help?

Test your flexibility - would stretching help you?

Which is better, stretching or strengthening?



Search This Site


Visitor Comments

“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

"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

"Superb site, many thanks, so much helpful content especially the targeted strengthening exercises for me.” Gerri, UK

“Thank you so much, your response makes so much sense. Thank you again for your time in answering my questions.” Cynthia, US

"Your website is a gold mine, thank you very much."
Gavril, Denmark

"I LOVE your website. Out of all the others, yours is so informational and easy to read." Michelle, US

"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