Top 20 Knee Strengthening Exercises You Should Try June 20, 2017

Knee pain can seriously affect the quality of your life. It causes excruciating pain and limits your movements. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, about 19.5% of the US population suffers from knee pain (1). It is caused due to various reasons such as bad posture, injury, overuse, obesity, age, dislocation, not warming up or cooling before and after exercise, gout, torn ligament, etc. Bottom line – knee pain should not be ignored. Because through knee pain, your body is communicating that it needs your attention. Though rest and medicines work, knee strengthening exercises can speed up the healing process. So, read on to find out which knee strengthening exercises will work for you, how to do them, and what precautions to take. Let’s begin!

20 Knee Strengthening Exercises

Since your knee is supported by muscles, cartilage, bones, ligaments, and fluids, you need to work on your quadriceps (front of your thighs), hamstrings (back of your thighs), shins (front of your legs), calves (back of your legs) and glutes (hip muscles) and do knee balancing and muscle relaxing exercises to help heal your knees. First, start by warming up. Here’s what you should do.

 Warm Up

This is the most important step and should never be avoided before any workout routine, especially if you are trying to recover from an injury. Not warming up can aggravate the injury. Check this video about 1 minute warm-up for treating knee pain.

Now, let’s start doing the knee pain reducing exercises.

1. Quad Clenches

Target

As the name suggests, quad clenches target your quadriceps (muscles found in the front of your thighs). This exercise is perfect for the initial stages of injury recovery.

Starting Position

Lie flat on your back with the legs and knees straight.

Steps To Do

  1. Tighten your quadriceps by clenching the muscles and ligaments joined to the knees. You can see and feel the front part of your knees move up when you clench your quadriceps.
  2. Hold for 2 seconds and then release.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, every 3-4 hours.

Variation

If your knees hurt and you cannot straighten them fully, keep a rolled towel underneath your ankles to raise your legs slightly up. Do the exercise gently and slowly.

Precaution

Do not forcefully straighten your legs and avoid overdoing this exercise.

 2. Knee Marching

Target

This exercise is also good during the initial stages of recovery. It helps to strengthen the quadriceps without putting any stress on the knee.

Starting Position

Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift your left foot up. Hold for a fraction of a second and then lower your left leg to touch the ground.
  2. Now, lift your right leg up, hold for a fraction of a second, and lower your right leg to touch the ground.

Repetitions

Do this for a minute, twice a day.

Variation

As you recover from about 80% of your injury, you can add weights and do this exercise.

Precaution

Do not stomp your feet.

3. Straight Leg Raise

Target

The straight leg raise helps strengthen the quadriceps without putting weight on your knees.

Starting Position

Lie flat on your back. Keep one leg straight, bend the other leg and put your foot flat on the ground.

Steps To Do

  1. Pull the toes of the straight leg towards you.
  2. Clench the quadriceps of the straight leg and raise your leg about 6 feet off the floor.
  3. Hold for 2 seconds. Slowly lower the leg and release your quadriceps.

Repetitions

Repeat 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

As your knee gets better, you can wear your training shoes to add weight to the exercise.

Precaution

Keep your knee straight when you raise the leg up. Avoid this exercise if you have back injury or back pain.

4. Long Arcs

4. Long Arcs Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

Long arcs do not allow your knees to become stiff when you sit for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. They strengthen your quadriceps and improve knee flexibility.

Starting Position

Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift one foot up and straighten your leg.
  2. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  3. Now, slowly flex your knee and lower your foot to the floor.
  4. Do this with your other leg.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20, times twice a day.

Variation

When your knees are about 80% recovered, you can add ankle weights.

Precaution

Do not keep your legs straight for too long, especially if the injury is recent.

5. Short Arcs

5. Short Arcs Pinit

Image: Source

Target

Shorts arc help improve knee strength and mobility. They also strengthen the quadriceps.

Starting Position

Lie flat on your back and place a rolled towel underneath your knee.

Steps To Do

  1. Pull the toes towards yourself and clench your quadriceps.
  2. Now, lift your foot up until your knee is straight. Keep your knee resting on the towel.
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  4. Slowly lower your leg and release the clenched quadriceps.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

You can do this exercise by lying flat on your back or adding ankle weights.

Precaution

Do not keep your leg up for more than 5 seconds as it may aggravate the injury.

6. Quadricep Stretch

6. Quadricep Stretch Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

As the name suggests, this exercise targets your quadriceps. The quadricep stretch is also known as the kick back. It strengthens and relaxes the quadriceps, which ultimately helps strengthen your knees.

Starting Position

Hold a chair and stand right behind it.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift your foot up and bring it towards your buttocks. Balance your body by keeping the other foot flat on the floor and holding the chair.
  2. Hold your foot and bring it closer to the body. You can feel the quadriceps stretch when you do this.
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly release and lower your leg.

Repetitions

Do this 10 times, twice a day.

Variation

Instead of a chair, you can hold on to the wall.

Precaution

Do not overstretch and twist your body when you do the quadriceps stretch.

7. Hamstring Clenches

7. Hamstring Clenches Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

The hamstrings are the muscles found at the back of your thighs. Since the hamstrings also help in knee and leg movement, strengthening them would take the load off the knees. This exercise will make your hamstrings strong and absorb the shock when you walk, run, or workout, causing less stress on the knee.

Starting Position

Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and your heels against the leg of the chair.

Steps To Do

  1. Press the heels against the leg of the chair firmly until you feel the back of your thighs clench.
  2. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then release.

Repetitions

You can do this exercise 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

There are no variations for this exercise.

Precaution

Do not move your feet while doing this exercise.

 8. Hamstring Stretch

8. Hamstring Stretch Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

The hamstring stretch is stress-relieving and helps to strengthen the ligaments at the back of your knee and the hamstrings.

Starting Position

Sit down on the floor with your hands and legs extended, and your palms facing the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Slide towards your feet and feel the stretch in your hamstrings.
  2. Hold for 10-20 seconds and then slide back to the starting position.

Repetitions

Do this 5-10 times, twice a day.

Variation

You can do this exercise standing up, but you need not touch your toes with your fingertips. Stop when you feel the stretch.

Precaution

Do not lock your knees or try to touch your nose to your knees.

9. Hamstring Curls

9. Hamstring Curls Pinit

Image: Source

Target

Hamstring curls are similar to quadriceps stretch, but this exercise will strengthen your hamstrings instead of the quads. It also improves knee mobility.

Starting Position

Hold a chair and stand straight with your foot flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Flex your knees and bring one foot up towards your buttocks.
  2. Hold for 2-3 seconds and then slowly lower your foot.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

You can add ankle weight to the supporting leg.

Precaution

Do not bring your legs beyond 90 degrees or lock your knees.

10. Buttock Clenches

10. Buttock Clenches Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

Buttock clenches help strengthen your glutes or buttock muscles without moving the knees.

Starting Position

Lie down flat on your back with the legs straight, shoulders relaxed, and toes neutral.

Steps To Do

  1. Clench your buttocks. You can feel yourself rise a bit when you do so.
  2. Hold for 3 seconds and release your muscles.

Repetitions

You can do this 20 times, twice a day.

Variation

You may do the buttock clenches sitting on a chair.

Precaution

Do not move your body while you are doing this exercise.

11. Buttock Kicks

11. Buttock Kicks Pinit

Image: Source

Target

This fun exercise helps to strengthen the knees without putting any stress on them. It helps to improve circulation and flexibility of the knees.

Starting Position

Lie flat on your tummy with the legs extended, toes flexed and touching the floor to support the legs, yours arms folded, and the palms underneath your chin.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift your feet up, flex your knees, and bring them close your buttocks.
  2. Hold for 2 seconds and then slowly lower them.

Repetitions

Do this 10 times, thrice a day.

Variation

You can add ankle weights after a week of doing this exercise.

Precaution

If you have a recent knee injury, place a soft towel underneath your knees.

12. Calf Raise

12. Calf Raise Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

The calf muscles are found at the back of your shin bone from the knees to your ankles. Like the quads and the hamstrings, the calf muscles also help absorb the shock when you walk, run, and workout. So, to strengthen your knees, you need to strengthen and relax your calf muscles.

Starting Position

Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you want, you can hold the back of a chair for support.

Steps To Do

  1. Rise on your toes by lifting your heels as high as possible.
  2. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly lower your heels back to the starting position.

Repetitions

You can do this 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

You can sit on a chair and do this exercise.

Precaution

Do not over strain or overexercise.

13. Single Leg Dip

13. Single Leg Dip Pinit

Image: Source

Target

The single leg dip targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It strengthens these muscles, thereby strengthening the knees.

Starting Position

Sit on the floor with your knees flexed, feet flat on the floor. Support your upper body by placing your hands behind you, palms flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift your hips off the ground and straighten one leg. Support your body with the palms and one foot on the floor.
  2. Flex your elbows to lower your body till you feel the stretch.
  3. Hold for 2 seconds and then bring your body back to the starting position.

Repetitions

You can do this 10-15 times, once a day.

Variation

You can do the same exercise by supporting your upper body on a low-rise platform.

Precaution

Do not hold for too long or overstress yourself to do this exercise.

14. Knee Stabilization

14. Knee Stabilization Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

Knee stabilization is a great way to strengthen your knees. It works on your outer and inner thighs, glutes, and hamstrings.

Starting Position

Hold a chair and stand right behind it with your feet flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift one foot off the floor and move your leg away from the supporting leg. Hold for 2 seconds.
  2. Move your leg in the opposite direction, i.e., towards your supporting leg.
  3. Move your leg back and hold for 2 seconds.
  4. Finally, move your leg forward and hold for 2 seconds.

Repetitions

Do this 10 times, twice a day.

Variation

You can hold a wall instead of a chair for support and move your legs in a circular motion, keeping your legs straight.

Precaution

Do not slouch or arch back while doing the exercise.

15. Wall Squat

15. Wall Squat Pinit

Image: Source

Target

Squatting right can help improve your knee strength and also reduce knee pain. Wall squats are the best to strengthen your knees as they work on all the muscles that are attached to the knee and help improve knee flexibility.

Starting Position

Position yourself against a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart, and feet flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Flex your knees and lower your body, keeping your back and pelvis against the wall.
  2. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold for 2 seconds and then slowly rise.

Repetitions

Do this 10 times, twice a day.

Variation

If you feel comfortable enough, you can do this exercise without the support of a wall.

Precaution

Do not squat incorrectly, slouch, or arch back to prevent injuring your knees.

16. Amosov Squat

Target

If you have suffered a recent knee injury, the Amosov squat can be really helpful in strengthening your knees. In fact, it helps heal patellar tendonitis faster. You place your weight on an immobile object and squat. This helps strengthen your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

Starting Position

Hold a sturdy immobile object with your feet flat on the floor and a little more apart than the width of your hips.

Steps To Do

  1. Flex your knees and keep your shins straight. Lower your body slowly and sit down completely without touching your hips to the floor. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground.
  2. Hold for two seconds and then slowly rise to the starting position.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

There is no variation to this exercise.

Precaution

Lower your body cautiously and slowly to avoid knee injury.

17. Soleus Dynamic Squat Stretch

Target

This exercise is similar to the Amosov squat, and it helps improve the flexibility of the knees and strengthen the supporting muscles and ligaments.

Starting Position

Hold a sturdy waist-high object with the legs hips-width apart and feet flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

Flex your knees and slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Hold for 2 seconds and gently rise to the starting position.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

No variations to this exercise.

Precaution

Do not raise your legs on your toes. Keep your heels fixed to the ground.

18. The Bridge

18. The Bridge Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

This exercise works on the hamstrings, quads, and glutes. The bridge is an excellent exercise to strengthen your knees.

Starting Position

Lie down on your back with your knees bent, arms on the side, palms facing down, and feet flat on the floor.

Steps To Do

  1. Clench your buttocks and lift your hips about 3 inches off the floor. Your palms must be fixed flat on the floor.
  2. Hold for 2-3 seconds.
  3. Exhale and gently lower your body and come back to the starting position.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, twice a day.

Variation

You can hold 2-pound dumbbells and place your hands on your tummy and do this exercise.

Precaution

Keep your back straight when you do this exercise.

19. Lunges

19. Lunges Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

Lunges work your quads, hamstrings, glutes, inner thighs, and calves. The strength of these muscles decides the strength of the knees. The stronger they are, the more shock they will absorb, thereby preventing knee injury and pain.

Starting Position

Stand straight with your legs hips-width apart, and hands resting on your waist.

Steps To Do

  1. Put your right leg forward, flex your knees, and lower your body.
  2. Hold for 2 seconds. Rise and go back to the starting position.
  3. Put your left leg forward, flex your knees, and lower your body.
  4. Hold for 2 seconds. Rise and go back to the starting position.

Repetitions

Do this 10-20 times, 2-3 times a day.

Variation

You can hold 2-pound weights in both your hands and do this exercise after two weeks of knee strengthening exercises.

Precaution

Do not do this exercise hastily. Also, avoid doing explosive lunges if your knee injury is recent.

20. Foam Roller Exercises

20. Foam Roller Exercises Pinit

Image: Shutterstock

Target

Foam roller exercises are a great way to massage and relax your tight, inflamed, and contracted muscles. They are the best when it comes to treating mild knee injuries.

Starting Position

Sit on the floor with your legs extended, hands behind your back, and palms flat on the floor. Keep a foam roller underneath your thighs.

Steps To Do

  1. Lift your hips and move your body forward so that the foam roller rolls up your thighs.
  2. Move your body backward so that the foam roller rolls down.
  3. Place the foam roller underneath your calves and move your body up and down to roll the foam roller up and down your calf muscles.
  4. Lie on your side and place the foam roller underneath your thighs. Support your upper body by extending one hand and touching the floor with the fingertips.
  5. Move your body up and down so that the roller rolls down and up, massaging your outer thighs.

Repetitions

Do this series 5-10 times, twice a day.

Variation

No variations.

Precaution

Make sure not to over massage your body as that can aggravate the injury and inflammation. Click here to understand how to relieve full body pain with foam roller exercises.

These were the 20 knee strengthening exercises that will help you build strong knees and also speed up the healing process of a knee injury. Consult your doctor and start doing these exercises today to live a free life and go places. Take care.

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Charushila is an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition and a full-time contributor to Diet & Weight Loss at Stylecraze. She believes that food has healing powers and eating good food is the best way to lose weight. A binge eater-turned-fitness enthusiast, Charushila likes to share her knowledge and experience with the world. When she is not working, she loves to cook healthy food, watch movies, travel, workout, and read Bengali literature.