If you have knee pain during exercise, strengthening the muscles that support the knee may help reduce pain and make exercise as well as daily movements more comfortable.1 The following exercises offer both strength and flexibility benefits for the quads, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs.
If you have knee pain, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and get clearance before trying these, or any other, exercises. Some of the exercises are shown using a resistance band, but you should try the moves without them if you’re a beginner. You can also use ankle weights in place of a resistance band.
See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any type of knee pain or discomfort.
A step or platform, a chair and resistance bands (or ankle weights)
- Warm up with 5-10 minutes of cardio – This can be brisk walking, marching in place, or any activity that gets your heart rate up and warms your muscles
- If you’re a beginner, complete 1-2 sets and try the moves with no weight to get a feel for the exercises
- For more advanced exercisers, complete 2-3 sets with short rest in between
- Modify the exercises as needed to fit your specific needs and goals
- Avoid any exercises that cause pain or exacerbate any current injuries
Push Step on the Step
Stand with your left side to a step or platform and place the left foot on the step. Push into the step to lift up a few inches and lower back down. Continue with the push step, moving quickly, for 30-60 seconds on the left leg before switching to the right. Repeat for 1-3 sets.2
Stand against a wall and slide down as low as you can (no lower than 90 degrees), making sure your knees stay behind your toes. Hold this position, keeping the weight in the heels for 15-30 seconds. Repeat for 1-3 sets.3
Resistance Band Pull-Throughs
Loop a resistance band around a sturdy object towards the floor and stand with your back to it, straddling the band.
Step away from the anchor point to increase resistance and stand with feet about hip-width apart and hold the band in each hand.
Tip from the hips, keeping your back straight and your shoulders down, lowering the torso as far as your flexibility allows (you can keep a slight bend in the knees).
Squeeze through the glutes to stand back up, pulling the band through your legs. Imagine that you’re pulling from your hips rather than your arms or lower back. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 reps.4
Knee Lifts with a Resistance Band
Loop a resistance band around your ankles (optional), leaving enough space so that the band is tight when feet are spread about a foot apart. Shift the band under the bottom of the standing foot and hold onto a wall or chair for balance if needed. Lift the right knee up until it’s level with the hip (or as high as you can). Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 reps on each side.5
Hamstring Curls With a Band
Stand in front of a chair for balance and bend the right knee, bringing your foot up behind you (like you’re kicking your own butt). Slowly lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg. Add intensity by wrapping a resistance band around your ankles (as shown) or use ankle weights.6
Leg Lifts With the Band
Stand sideways to a chair or wall for support and tie a resistance band around your ankles (optional). Lift the left leg out to the side, foot flexed and the hip, knee, and foot in alignment. Try to lift the leg without tilting at the torso. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 reps. You can also use an ankle weight.7
Inner Thigh Squeeze
While seated with good posture, place a ball or a rolled up towel between your knees. Squeeze the ball by contracting the inner thighs and release slightly–don’t release all the way–and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 reps.
Seated Straight Leg Raise
Sit tall with the left leg bent and the right leg straight, foot flexed. Wrap your arms around the left leg for support and engage the abs. Lift the right leg off the floor, keeping the leg straight (but not locked). Avoid leaning back, but use your core and the left leg to stay upright. Lower the leg, lightly touching the floor and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 reps and add ankle weights for added intensity if desired.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sit on a step and stretch the left leg out (you can also sit on a chair and prop the leg on another chair), keeping the right foot on the floor. Bend forward, keeping the torso upright, until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets on each side.10
Stand in a staggered stance, right foot forward and left foot back (you can hold onto a wall for balance if needed). Bend both knees and press the back hip forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the left thigh and hip flexor. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets on each side.11
Standing Calf Raise
Stand in a staggered stance, right foot forward and left foot back (you can hold onto a wall for balance if needed). Bend the front knee and lean forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of your left leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets on each side.