Exercises to strengthen your knees

Regular knee-strengthening exercises can help minimise everyday knee pain and slow down the progression of knee arthritis.

A common complaint that affects people of all ages; knee pain may be the result of an injury, like a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage. This also includes conditions like arthritis, gout and certain infections.

When the muscles around the knee get stronger, they’re able to stabilise the joint and absorb shock during weight-bearing activities, like standing and walking. A stable and supported joint will have less friction, lower wear-and-tear and fewer complaints in general!

Are you wrecking your knee?

Skipping your warm-up

Jumping right into a workout could really mess up your knees. Warm-ups are important as they lubricate the knee joint, circulate synovial fluid into the knee, improve muscle elasticity, and boost oxygen flow to the area. This will reduce your chance of injury to the knees.

Ignoring knee pain

When pain limits your ability to do what you normally do; you need to have it checked out. Your body sends you signals, you need to listen to them, especially if they persist.

Being overweight

Being overweight or obese will wreck your knees. Being overweight also increases your chances of osteoarthritis in the knee, a common and often disabling form of arthritis that wears away the knee’s cushiony cartilage. Excess weight also causes existing arthritis to progress more rapidly.

You push past your limits

Excessively exercising past the point of fatigue can increase your risk of injury. When fatigue sets in, the different parts of the knees get stressed. Knowing your limits is vital to help avoid any damage.

Keep your knees healthy

Here are a few exercises to help improve the strength and stability of your knee joint. Remember to always focus on your technique. Done wrong, some exercises can cause more harm than good!

Squats

  • Squatting is a multi-purpose knee-strengthening exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and buttocks.
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, firmly planted on the ground.
  • Slowly bend the knees as if you’re sitting back into a chair and keep the back straight.
  • The knees shouldn’t go forward beyond the toes.
  • Arms may be raised forward to help with balance.
  • A reasonable goal is four sets of 12. To add difficulty, hold small free weights in each hand.

Side-lying leg raises

  • This exercise targets mainly the muscles on the outside of the hip.
  • Lie on the left side of the body and bend the left knee so that the left foot is behind the body.
  • Slowly raise the right leg until it makes a 45-degree angle with the rest of the body, keeping it as straight as possible.
  • Pause with leg raised at 45 degrees, and then start a controlled lowering to the starting position.
  • At its lowest position, the right leg should be parallel to the floor and not resting, if possible.
  • Repeat the leg raise eight to 12 times on each side, in three sets. If this exercise seems too easy, add light ankle weights.
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Knee marches

Knee marches are like straight leg raises, but less strenuous. They focus on strengthening the quad muscles without placing downward pressure on the knee.

  • Get a chair and sit tall with your feet on the floor. Holding on to the edge of the chair (or on top of lifting knee), lift one leg up toward your chest (keep the knee bent).
  • Lower and switch sides, alternating for 20 to 30 reps.
  • You can make these more difficult by adding an ankle weight or shoe.

Heel raises

Heel raises help strengthen the stabiliser muscles surrounding the knee due to the balance needed to raise up on the balls of your feet.

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart (you can lightly touch a wall or chair for balance).
  • Rise up onto the balls of your feet, avoid leaning forward.
  • Hold for one to two seconds, then lower. Repeat for10 to 20 reps.

Glute bridges

This exercise works the entire lower half of the body, including the core. Strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core help to relieve pressure on the knee joints and improve knee stabilisation.

  • Lay on the floor with your legs bent and feet in line with your hips.
  • While engaging your glutes, lift your butt toward the sky and hold. Avoid arching your back.
  • Lower to just above the floor and repeat for 10 to 15 reps.
  • Once you’re easily doing standard bridges with no knee pain or weakness, try single-leg bridges by extending one leg out in front of you as you raise and lower.

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