How exercises can benefit your knee joints
Leading health organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation, have found that exercise is one of the most effective ways to treat osteoarthritis.
This can sometimes even eliminate the need for surgery on your joints. Keeping your muscles in good condition, strong and flexible, you can avoid injury altogether.
These knee strengthening exercises are not tailored to attend to the joint directly. They are used to strengthen the muscles that surround them to provide good support for your joints.
The support given by these surrounding muscles will help to withstand the everyday pressure and strain on your knees. It can help with pain and keep you active.
The strengthening exercises for knee below will help to strengthen the muscles that surround the joint. If you experience pain during these exercises then you should stop immediately and consult with your doctor.
If you have severe knee pain then you should, of course, speak with your doctor or physical therapist for medical advice before trying these exercises.
You will need to stretch and warm-up before attempting any exercise to strengthen knees. These gentle exercises include walking, cycling, and the use of the elliptical machine. These put minimal stress on the knee.
They will increase blood flow to the muscles and help them to become more flexible.
1. Leg lifts
The leg lifts focus on your quadriceps, and abdominal muscles.
Lay on the floor with your back flat. You can use either a yoga mat or a folded blanket if you want to add a little comfort on a hard floor.
Keeping the left leg straight, bend the other leg slightly at the knee to bring the foot closer to the body.
Pull your abdominal muscles inward, imagine stapling your belly button to your spine, bringing it down toward the floor.
This should bring the lower back down against the floor. It will act to provide extra support during the exercise.
Place your hand under your lower back to make sure there is no space between the small of your back and the floor.
If there is space here then press the lower back down further to the floor. Bring it down on the top of the hand.
Slowly lift your leg without bending the knee. Keep your toes pointed toward the ceiling and stop when your leg is positioned about 12 inches from the floor.
This should not be any higher than the bent knee of your right leg.
Hold this position for up to 5 seconds, then bring your leg slowly back toward the floor to the starting position.
This must be done slowly and you should not let it fall or drop. You can repeat this twice with the same leg before switching. Then you can repeat it on the other side.
Your back should not be arched at any point during the exercise, it should always be as flat as possible against the floor.
Do not jerk or make sudden movements or allow the lifted leg to go above the opposite knee. if you have osteoporosis or a back compression fracture then you should avoid this exercise.
2. Standing hamstring curls
The standing hamstring curls are a great knee exercise and will act to engage your hamstrings and gluteal muscles.
Stand with your knees one or two inches apart and hold on to a stable chair or countertop for balance.
Slowly bend one knee behind your body, lifting the heel from the floor while keeping your thighs aligned. Continue to lift the heel in a smooth motion and bend until the knee is at a 90-degree angle.
Keep your straight leg slightly bent as you do not want it locking. Hold the bent leg up for 5 seconds and then slowly lower it to the floor. repeat twice with the same leg and then switch to the opposite leg.
During this exercise, you should not point the toes or flew the foot of the lifted leg. It should remain in a neutral, flat position.
3. Hamstring curls on a weight bench
Evidently this exercise uses the hamstrings but also the gluteal muscles.
It is a variation of the hamstring curl. If you have access to a weight bench but it must be purpose-built for this exercise.
It is more challenging than the standing hamstring curl, dependant on the weights being used.
Lie face down on the bench and have your knees close together. Grip onto the handles for stability.
Tuck your feet under the weight which should sit just up above the heels. Slowly bend both knees, using the force of your legs to raise the weight up.
Lift the weight in a smooth motion until the knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold the weight up for 5 seconds before releasing, slowly lowering it back down to the starting position.
Perform 15 reps in total.
When you first attempt this exercise, do not use a heavy weight. Try with the lowest weight and work your way up to the heavier weights to build up your strength.
4. Step exercises
Step exercises concentrate on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.
Here you will need a large, sturdy stool which should be no taller than 6 inches. Step onto the stool with your right foot and bring the left foot up to follow behind.
This foot should not be on the stool but should hang behind it. Keep your body weight resting on your right foot.
Hold this position for 5 seconds. Then you can slowly lower your left foot, followed by your right. Switch legs and repeat for a total of 3 times on each foot.
There are a few things that you should avoid when performing this exercise.
Firstly, do not lock your knees, they should remain slightly bent for the duration. The foot on the stool should be wholly on the stool, not hanging off the platform at any point. If you have any issues with your balance you should not attempt this exercise.
5. Chair dips
Chair dips involve your quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles.
Find two high backed, stable chairs and place them on either side of your body. The chair backs should be next to the arms. Place your hands on the back of each chair for balance.
Bend your legs at the knee, careful to not let the knees come past the toes.
Extend the right foot out to the front of your body in a slow kicking motion. Keep the weight balanced on the left foot. Bring the right leg down a little, just a few inches from the floor.
Hold this position for 5 seconds while balancing on the left leg. Now you may lower the right leg completely to the floor and stand up straight with both feet on the ground. Switch sides and repeat for 3 reps on each side for 3 sets.
Make sure not to bring your leg up more than 45 degrees from the floor. Also, when lifting the leg do not lean backward. You must keep your upper body straight.
6. Wall squats
Wall squats will exercise your quadriceps and gluteal muscles.
To begin you must stand with your back flat against the wall, with your head, shoulder, and hips touching the wall.
Step your feet out about 24 inches from the wall. Keep your body against the wall behind and feet no more than hip-width apart.
Slide down the wall until you are in a sitting position. Hold this position for 5 seconds before you slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 to 10 times or until your thighs feel fatigued.
Make sure you do not squat too low, your knees should not go over your toes. You must also avoid fats or jerky movements. This exercise should be slow and smooth.
Frequently asked questions
Do squats strengthen knees?
Although many of us have heard the contrary, squats can actually strengthen your knees if performed in the proper way.
It is an easy exercise that can be used to target the muscles around the joint.
The movement that should be avoided in order to protect these joints is bending forward. This motion puts added pressure on your knees and can lead to injury.
Otherwise, it is a great exercise that can be done in the comfort of your own home to help strengthen your knees!
How can I strengthen cartilage?
Cartilage is the part of the knee that protects the joints from rubbing against each other. It is the flexible structure that cushions your joints.
Just like the other parts of your knee, it can become damaged in several ways, one of the most common being the meniscus tear.
This is the largest piece of cartilage and is attached to the ligaments. You can also wear away the cartilage in your knee which is one of the issues associated with osteoarthritis.
You can not directly strengthen the knee, however, there are some exercises that have been proven to help to improve your range of motion and strength.
In some cases, surgery may be needed but this should be seen as the last resort.