Knee Exercise: Getting It Right

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

Knee Exercise: Find loads of great advice on getting the best results from exercises and how to do them safely

Knee exercises are a great way to improve strength, flexibility and balance. They are one of the most effective tools for reducing knee pain.

There are loads of different exercise plans out there for knee pain, but how do you know where to start? How often should you do them? How do you make sure you don't overdo it?

Well, here we tell you everything you need to know to help you get it right so you can beat your knee pain, from where to start, when to stretch, how to work at the right level and how to progress as well as sharing loads of great knee exercise plans to get you going.

Where To Start

If you are suffering from knee pain, then nine times out of ten, the best place to start is with knee strengthening exercises. In virtually every case of knee pain, there will be some weakness in the muscles surrounding and supporting the knee joint. Simple strengthening exercises help to combat that.  

It's not just about strengthening the quads and the hamstrings. Whilst they are important, it's also really important to think about the glutes and calf muscles as they play an important role in strength and stability around the knee.

In the knee strengthening exercises section, you will find exercises for each group of muscle, split into different stages, beginners, intermediate and advanced and will find advice of how to progress as your muscle strength improves. There are easy to follow instructions and videos and all the exercises can be done from the comfort of your own home, with no need for any specialist equipment.

What About Stretching?

Knee exercises help improve strength and flexibility.  Approved use by

People with knee pain often make the mistake of starting by stretching their leg muscles. When there is muscle weakness in the leg, the other muscles around the knee try to compensate. They shorten and tighten up in an attempt to provide stability themselves to control knee movement. 

This can be helpful in the short term to protect the knee, but in the long run, the tightness may actually cause more problems so it must be addressed.

Strengthening exercises should come first. If you carry out stretches without first strengthening the knee, you can actually cause more knee problems as you are taking away your body’s support structure making the knee less stable and putting more force through it.

Therefore, I often advise people to start with strengthening exercises and then after a couple of weeks, add in knee stretches.

Knee Exercise: Too Much Or Too Little?

People often ask how to know if the are working at the right level with their knee exercise plan. Everyone is different depending on the cause of their knee problem, age, fitness level, and the strength of each muscle. My advice is start slowly and gradually build up.

Start with a low number of repetitions of each knee exercise on day 1 and then stop – don’t be tempted to do more. Sometimes, it can take a few hours for post exercise fatigue and discomfort to settle in. If the next day everything feels fine, next time increase the number of repetitions by 1 or 2. Then wait 24 hours and see how you feel.

Top tips on working at the right level with knee exercises
  • Not Working Hard Enough: If a knee exercise feels very easy, you probably need to push things a bit more

  • Getting It Right: As you do the exercises it should feel like you are working reasonably hard, but shouldn’t be too painful. Any discomfort should stop within a few minutes of stopping the exercise.

  • Done Too Much: If a knee exercise feels like really hard work, you are probably pushing things a bit too much. If you overdo things, your knee is likely to feel uncomfortable for a few hours after doing your exercises. If this happens, reduce the number of repetitions/weights

Re-evaluate regularly, aiming to progress your knee exercises approximately every three days.

How to Progress Knee Exercises

There are a few different ways you can progress knee exercises:

Benefits of Resistance Band Exercises For Legs
  1. Resistance Bands: A great way to challenge yourself is to use resistance bands such as theraband. They provide graded resistance to knee exercises helping to improve strength, stability and endurance.

    Resistance bands are cheap, safe and effective and are a great way to add some variety!
    Related Article: Resistance Bands

  2. Weights: Another simple way to progress strengthening exercises is to add a weight e.g. ankle weights, or wear a shoe. When you do this, it is a good idea to reduce the number of repetitions you do of the exercise and gradually build them up again as the muscles are working harder.
    Related Article: Resistance Bands vs Weights

  3. Repetitions: The simplest way to progress a knee exercise is to increase the number of repetitions that you do. As a general rule, aim to build up to around 30 repetitions of a knee exercise

  4. Extras: Sometimes there are clever ways to increase the difficulty of an exercise e.g. adopting a different position, so look out for these in the knee exercise plans.

I also recommend checking out the Getting The Most out of Knee Exercises section for top tips on how to ensure the best results.

Knee Exercise Plans

Want to get going with exercises that are right for you? Choose from the following knee exercise plans:

1. General Exercises for Knee Pain

These knee exercise plans incorporate strengthening, stretching and balance exercises and are a great place to start if you have injured your knee or are recovering from surgery.

You can choose from beginnersintermediate and advanced.

2. Exercises for Specific Knee Problems

If you know what is wrong with your knee, then specialised exercise plans can really help. Here you can find tailored plans for: 

3. Knee Stretches

The first thing to work out is whether your muscles tight or not. In the knee stretches section we help you work which muscles need stretching with some simple tests. You can then choose from the following knee stretching programmes:  

4. Knee Strengthening Exercises

We have a whole range of knee strengthening exercises for you, depending on what you are looking for. If you have recently suffered from a knee injury, are recovering from surgery, or have never done knee exercise before, start with the beginners and then work your way through: beginners, intermediate and advanced.

You can also choose knee strengthening exercises by muscle group:

Remember, if you are suffering from knee pain or are about to start on a new knee exercise programme, always make sure you consult a doctor first.


Knee exercises are the perfect way to build up strength, flexibility, endurance and control in the leg. Whether you are recovering from an injury, wanting to improve your strength or knee control or are looking for exercises to do to go alongside your sports, knee exercises can really help.

In general, you want to do a combination of knee strengthening exercises and knee stretches. Adding in things like resistance bands can also really help to take things to the next level, and helps make knee exercises more interesting!

You may also be interested in the following articles:

Page Last Updated: 12/12/23
Next Review Due: 12/12/25

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