Our knees are vital to our overall health and strength but are an often neglected and underappreciated area of the body. When we’re looking to get strong, we often think about how we can do so while protecting our backs and put the load onto our knees. However, without sufficient strengthening, you’re running headlong toward a knee injury.
If you’re on the other side of a knee injury, then you’ll know how much a knee injury impacts your daily life. You can quickly find yourself becoming less active and moving less, which not only affects your physical health but your mental health, too.
So, how can you strengthen your knees to prevent injury and rehabilitate after a knee injury? Read on to find out the 5 best knee strengthening exercises to start doing today.
5 Best Knee Strengthening Exercises
This is a basic and easy knee strengthening exercise, but it’s ideal for beginners and anyone recovering from an injury because you can do it anywhere and you can increase the difficulty as you get stronger.
To do this exercise, simply slowly sit down on a chair, and then slowly rise again, and repeat. To make this exercise easier, use a higher seat, such as the back of your sofa, or use your arms to push yourself up until your knees can take over. If you’re in recovery, try to do this several times throughout your day, rather than a huge number of reps once. Look to restore functional strength first so you can build on a solid foundation after.
If you already have good knee health, make this exercise harder by crossing your arms, using a chair that’s lower to the ground, or add weight. Avoid jerking yourself up or trying to throw your weight forward to get out of your sitting position. If you feel stuck, use your arms until your knees can support you.
If you’re old enough to remember the nineties, you’ll likely remember the popularity of step aerobics. If not, it essentially used step-ups worked into an aerobic routine to elevate the heart rate and tone the body, and it’s still a great way to get exercise and strengthen your knees.
Find a step and step up onto it with one foot, straightening your leg fully, and tap the step with your other foot. Hold there, and then lower that foot back down to the ground. Use a railing, wall, or friend for balance if needed. To make this easier, use a small step and alternate legs. To make it harder, use the same leg until it starts to become fatigued, increase the height of the step, or add weight.
3. Hamstring Curls
Hamstring curls help you to build strength in supporting muscles and increase knee mobility, and the good news is you don’t need a hamstring curl machine to do them. You can do them standing, by simply holding onto the back of a chair and raising your foot up to your butt as far as you can, and squeezing, or lying down, by doing the same thing. You can add weight by gripping a dumbbell between your feet, or by tying a resistance band to a heavy object (that won’t move!) nearby and looping the end around your feet.
If you head to the gym, be aware that lying hamstring curls are a lot kinder on your knees than seated. If you have a knee condition that causes pain behind the patella, such as Chondromalacia, avoid seated machines or keep the weight extremely light and don’t work through the pain.
4. Squats (Sumo)
Squats are great for your knees but can be too much if you’re recovering from an injury. Start with Sit-to-Stand and then move on to squats. Doing sumo squats is often much kinder on the knees, so start there. Sumo squats are where you squat down with a wide stance – much like the way a sumo wrestler stands before they start wrestling. Squat down, pushing down through the hips, and then rise to standing. Make sure you get your glutes, hip flexors, and abs involved in the movement. Use a chair for balance if you need to, or add weight to make it more difficult.
Lunges are great for building strength around the knee, but use them cautiously. If you have a knee issue or injury that makes lunges painful, avoid them until you’ve built up some strength or modify them to make them easier. To lunge, put one knee out in front of you and the other foot behind you. Using something for support, lower down until your front knee is at a right angle over the foot. Then rise, using your glutes and core to support the movement. To make this easier, focus only on the front knee, and keep the rear knee softly flexed, and use something for support.
To make it harder, place your hands on your hips and aim to make both knees right angles without touching the floor, then rise up. You can add weight to increase the difficulty further.
Remember: Knees Don’t Operate in Isolation
When we have a problem, it’s often tempting to think about the problem in isolation and fail to consider the impact on other areas of our body. When you’re thinking about strengthening your knees, don’t forget that your hips, ankles, and other joints need care and attention, too. Your goal should be to improve overall strength and function so your knees are supported.
Our Joint Health 101 is the ideal guide to help you understand exactly how joints work, how to strengthen them, and how to relieve joint pain in just 90 days. We cover mobility, strength, and diet to ensure you not only increase strength but experience true wellness in all aspects of your body. To find out more and to get the guide so you can start feeling better in just two weeks, click here.