Knee Rehab Exercises

By Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy

Knee rehab exercises are a great way to reduce knee pain and instability as well as improve strength and flexibility

Knee rehab exercises aim to increase muscle strength, flexibility and control. This helps reduce knee pain, stiffness, weakness, instability and swelling caused by injuries, long-term knee problems and surgery.

Here you will find a general programme of advanced-level knee rehab exercises working on strength, flexibility and balance. They target all the important leg muscles, the quads, hamstrings, buttocks and calf muscles.

If you have not already tried the beginners or intermediate exercises, do start there first. Exercises should feel challenging but not aggravate your pain. Find out more in the Exercising at the Right Level section.

You should always see your doctor before you start any knee rehab to get an accurate diagnosis, but once you get the all clear, you’re ready to begin. To get the most out of these advanced knee rehab exercises, visit the Top Tips on Exercising section before you start.

Advanced Knee Rehab Exercises

1) Squats

Purpose: Squats are one of the best ways to improve knee strength and abolish pain.  They target the hamstrings, quads and buttock muscles

Squats are a great part of knee rehab exercises. Approved use by

Starting Position: Stand upright with feet hip width apart, toes pointing forwards

Action: Slowly squat downwards as far as is comfortable without letting your knees go forwards over your toes. Then return to starting position

Repetitions: 10-30 repetitions

Top tips: Don’t let your knees drop inwards, keep your kneecap in-line with your second toe

Progression: 1) Increase the depth of the squat
2) Hold at the bottom for a few seconds before coming back up
3) Do a few pulses up and down at the bottom of the squat

2) Bridging: Stage 2

Purpose: Great knee rehab exercise to strengthen the hamstrings, quads and buttock muscles. If you haven't already done Bridging: stage 1, start there.

Bridging for knee rehab exercises to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Lie on your back with both knees bent about 90° and your feet on the floor/bed. Knees should be slightly apart (tennis ball width)

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

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

Notes: 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
3) Keep your knees tennis ball width apart – don’t let them drop out or lock them together
4) Don’t let your hips drop during the exercise – keep them up as high as you can

3) Chair Squats

Purpose: Increase knee strength (quads, hamstrings, glutes)

Squats are a great way to reduce knee pain.  These chair squats are a great variation on traditional squats.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Stand on the leg to be worked and put other leg behind you on a chair

Action: Slowly squat down as far as comfortable. The knee should not go beyond your toes (see dotted line). Return to starting position

Repetitions: 10-30 repetitions on each leg

Top tips: 1) Keep your back straight throughout the exercise – don’t lean forwards
2) The movement should be slow and controlled for maximum benefit.

4) Split Squats

Purpose: Great knee rehab exercises to increase quads, hamstring and buttock strength. Also helps improve knee control

Split Squats.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Stand in lunge position (one foot in front of the other) and lift your back heel so you are on your tiptoes

Action: Slowly squat downwards taking your back knee towards the floor. Then slowly return to starting position

Repetitions: 10-30 repetitions on each leg

Progression: Start with your front foot up on a step (as shown) - this allows you to squat down even further!

Top tips: 1) Make sure you are going straight down not forwards
2) The emphasis should be on a slow, controlled movement
3) Don’t let your front knee go forwards over your toes

5) Lunges

Purpose: Great knee rehab exercises to increase knee strength and control

Lunges are a great way to improve knee strength.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Standing upright, feet pointing forwards

Action: Step forward with one leg and drop your back knee, keeping most of your body weight on your front leg. Push off the front leg to return to standing position

Repetitions: 10-30x on each leg

Top tips: 1) Keep your toes pointing forwards and your back straight
2) Don’t let your front knee go over your toes – if that is happening you need to step further forwards

Progression: Hold weights while doing the exercise

6) The Clam: Stage 2

Purpose: Strengthen the buttock muscles (glutes) to help support the knee and prevent excessive weight going through the inner side of the knee. Most people with knee pain have weak glutes. Make sure you can do The Clam: Stage 1 first

The Clam, stage 2.  Excellent knee rehab exercise to strengthen the glutes for better control around the knee.  Approved use by

Starting position: Lie on your side with your hip and knees bent approx 90°, feet together. Lift your feet up about 30cms off the bed, knees still resting on the bed/floor

Action: Keeping your feet together, lift the top knee up as high as you can without rolling back at your hips. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly lower

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

Top tips: Do not let your top hip roll backwards

7) Balance Reaches

Purpose: Improve balance and control of knee - both important parts of knee rehab exercises

Knee rehab exercises for balance.  This is a great way to imrove balance and knee stability. Approved use by

Starting Position: Stand on one leg

Action: slowly reach down to the floor lifting your other leg behind you, then slowly return to starting position

Repetitions: 10-30x on each leg

Progression: 1) put items (e.g. cones) on the floor in a semicircle around you and reach for one cone at a time
2) Keep your knee slightly bent as you do balance knee rehab exercises

What Next?

Knee rehab exercises are one of the most important parts in recovering from pain. If these exercises seem to challenging or you are just starting out, try our beginners and intermediate knee rehab exercises first.

Another effective way to reduce many causes of knee pain is to improve the flexibility of knee muscles by stretching. Most people have tighter muscles than they should. To see if you have a problem check out some simple stretching tests or skip straight to stretching exercises.

It always helps to know what is causing your pain to ensure the knee rehab exercises are suitable for you.  Visit the knee pain diagnosis section for help or find out more about the most common causes of knee pain.

  1. Knee Pain Guide
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  3. Knee Exercises
  4.  ›
  5. Advanced Exercises

Page Last Updated: 26/9/18
Next Review Due: 26/9/20

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