The knees play a crucial role in all aspects of movement — not only during our workouts, but in our daily routines as well. So when you suffer from knee pain, it can be really debilitating. Many people move with improper form in and out of the gym, which can result in knee injuries or knee pain. And with knee injuries or weak knees, it can be hard to do even simple movements like walking.
Many Start TODAY members are complaining about knee pain inhibiting their walking routine. I know how frustrating it can be to feel sidelined by pain when you’re otherwise motivated to workout!
Luckily, there are exercises you can do at home to strengthen the knees and reduce pain. Strengthening the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves is essential as each of these muscles supports the knee joint. From arthritis to injuries that’ve occurred from sports-related activities, movements that tone the muscles around the knee joint are the best way to not only strengthen the knees, but to prevent any further injuries.
Straight leg raises
This easy knee-strengthening exercise is the perfect starter exercise. It engages the quadriceps, which stabilize the knee joint during movement. To start, lie down on your back. Bring one leg in by bending the knee and setting your foot flat on the floor. The other leg should be kept straight out in front of you. Keeping the bent leg still, raise the straight leg to the height of the bent knee. Point the foot and squeeze the quad. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
Used to build endurance in the glutes, quadriceps and calves, the wall sit is another great knee-strengthening exercise. In an open space on a clear wall, sit back against the wall and slide down into a squat until you form a 90-degree angle with your hips and knees. Keeping your back flat against the wall, hold this position for 10 seconds. Complete three wall sits total.
Seated leg raises
To complete this knee-strengthening exercise, start by sitting on a chair with both knees bent. Keeping one foot on the ground, engage the other leg by straightening the leg out in front of you, squeezing the quad and flexing the foot. Then slowly raise the leg until it is parallel to the floor. Pause, then slowly return the leg to starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
Standing hamstring curl
Using a chair or wall for support, start in a standing position. Pick one leg up and raise it off the floor by bending the knee to a 90-degree angle. Hold for two seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
A half squat is a great way to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps without putting too much strain on your knees. Start off in a standing squat position with feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or extend your arms straight out in front of you to maintain an upright torso. Pull your naval in toward your spine. Slowly squat down to the halfway point of a full squat. Pause to increase muscle tension, then raise back up to a standing position. Repeat 10 times.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (near a wall or chair for stability if needed). Raise both heels off of the ground to stand on the balls of your feet. Slowly return back to a standing position. Repeat 10 times.
Side leg raises
Lie down on your side on a flat surface. Both legs should be straight, stacked on top of each other. Raise the top leg as high as you are comfortable with; pause at the top. Slowly lower your leg to return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then flip over to the other side and switch legs.
Prone leg raises
Lie face down on a flat surface. Rest your head on your forearms with both legs straight out behind you. Starting with one leg, engage your hamstrings and glutes to raise your leg as high as you are comfortably able to. Then slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
Lie on your back on a flat surface. Pull your knees in toward your body to a comfortable bent position with both feet flat on the ground. Pressing through your heels, peel your low, mid then upper back off the floor to raise your glutes off the ground. Pull the abs in to support the lower back. At the top position, squeeze the glutes before slowly returning back to the start position. Repeat 10 times.