Strengthening exercises for the knee are one of the best ways to heal knee pain and keep it from coming back.

People who do knee strengthening exercises have less pain, recover faster from injuries, function better, and have fewer pain recurrences.

Different types of exercises for strengthening the knees

There are so many different knee strengthening exercises that it can be difficult to know where to start. However, we must keep in mind that the best exercises to strengthen the knees should include:

  1. Quadriceps strengthening . Having this muscle strengthened is important for getting up from a chair, climbing stairs, walking and running.
  2. Strengthening the hamstrings . Strengthening these muscles is important for running and flexing the knee.
  3. Gluteal strengthening . Weak glutes are one of the most common contributors to knee pain.
  4. Calf muscle strengthening . Strengthening the calves or gastrocnemius muscle is important to control the movement of the foot and ankle, it also helps us to be able to stand on our toes.
  5. Balance and stability training . It is a really important exercise to ensure good knee control and prevent knee injuries.

The best exercises to strengthen your knees

The following exercises will focus on strengthening the supporting muscles of the knee so that they can take the pressure off the knee joints and ensure that they are aligned correctly.

Try to do these exercises every other day (or even every day if you have the time) for the best results. As you progress you can modify the intensity of them.

1. Straight Leg Raise

Straight leg raises help target the front of your quads, without having to bend your knees. They are especially good for when any type of bending or loading on your knees bothers you.

The reason why strengthening the quadriceps muscle is recommended is because it helps absorb shock before it reaches the knee joint. This will decrease stress on your knees and help reduce pain and friction when trying to go up or down stairs for example.


  • Start lying on your back, one leg bent with the other extended straight in front of you, along the floor (can also be done with both legs extended).
  • Bend your foot and try to point the toe toward you, keeping your knee straight.
  • Raise your foot about six inches off the floor, hold for 3-5 seconds, then lower.
  • Do 10 to 20 repetitions.

Once your knees feel stronger, you can try adding weight like a shoe or weight to the ankles.

2. Assisted squat

Sitting and standing is essentially an assisted squat (assisted by a chair, which keeps you from putting too much pressure on weak knees). It works the entire lower body, as well as the stabilizing muscles that run from the glutes to the toes, reinforcing the knees against shock and strain.

  1. To stand up, do it slowly, with your hands outstretched, it is not necessary to do it fast or very slow.
  2. Sit back down by placing your weight on your heels and activating your glutes once more.
  3. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions.

You can vary the intensity of the exercises by using a lower chair, or by adding some weight in the form of hand weights, or even a backpack. Eventually, you can move on to standard squats.

3. Lift deadlift

The deadlift is one of the best ways to strengthen the posterior chain , which includes all the muscles that run down the back of the leg. Since this includes the glutes and hamstrings that help straighten and stabilize the knee joints, the deadlift is a great exercise to add to your knee-strengthening routine .

  1. Begin by standing, holding a pair of light weights at your hips. Your knees should be slightly bent.
  2. Now, lean forward, keeping the weights in front of your hips. Push your hips back as you do this, preventing your shoulders from rolling forward.
  3. Once you’ve dropped to just below knee height, contract the gluten and hamstrings and return to the original position.
  4. Do 10 to 15 repetitions, and about 3 to 4 sets.

You can gradually add more weight. Eventually, you will be able to progress to using a barbell, rather than weights, but this must be done very carefully, without arching your back.

4. Knee gait

Knee marches are similar to straight leg raises, only less strenuous. They focus on strengthening the quad muscles without putting pressure on the knee.

  1. Grab a chair and sit with your feet on the floor. Put both hands on your knee, lift one leg towards your chest keeping the knee bent.
  2. After several repetitions, switch sides, alternating from 20 to 30 repetitions.

When you get the hang of it, you can add some weight to your ankles to make the exercise more intense.

5. Calf strengthening

While glute exercises help to strengthen the knees from the top, calf exercises, such as the heel lift, help support the knees from the bottom. In this way, we end up with a “cushion” of muscle that surrounds the knees, helping their mobility and strength.

The heel lift also helps strengthen the stabilizing muscles that surround the knee due to the balance required to elevate the balls of the feet.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart (you can lightly touch a wall or chair for balance).
  2. Stand up on the balls of your feet, avoiding leaning forward.
  3. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds, then lower. Repeat for 10 to 20 repetitions, and do about 3 to 4 sets.

Remember to be constant in the exercise, and do not expect immediate results, strengthening the knees requires a process, and not always we all advance at the same pace.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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