Leg Exercises to Strengthen Knee Joints

Since you can’t technically strengthen the joints, let’s take a look on what we can do to strengthen the muscles around the joints.

The knees are surrounded by leg muscles; strengthening these muscles will provide better support and stability to the joints.

The knee joint is surrounded by:

  1. Quadriceps muscles – the large thigh muscles in front of the leg.
  2. Hamstring muscles – the large muscles on the back of the leg.
  3. Calf muscles – muscles on the lower back part of the leg that control the foot.
  4. IT bands – a long band of connective tissue that runs straight from the hip bone down to the outside of the knee.

Simple leg strengthening exercises can be done in the comforts of your home or in the gym. Here are few exercises that you can do with or without the use of weights.

Quads strengthening exercises:

  1. Squats – Make sure to perform with proper form. Bend the hips and knees on a sitting position until the thighs are parallel to the ground; knees shouldn’t go past your toes and with neutral spine. This can be done with or without weights. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
  2. Quads contraction – Keeping your legs and knees straight, tighten your quads by pushing the knees down. You should feel your thigh muscles clench. Hold for 3 seconds for 15-20 reps.
  3. Quads over fulcrum – While lying down place a rolled towel or foam under your knees. Slowly straighten your knees as far as possible while tightening your quads. Hold for 5 seconds for 10 reps. It should be pain-free
  4. Knee extension – With your knees bent on a sitting position, slowly straighten your knee tightening the quads. Keep your back straight and the movement controlled. Do the same for the other leg. Do 3 sets of 15 reps. For added resistance, use ankle weights or resistance bands.

Hamstring strengthening exercises:

  1. Hamstring curls – lie on your stomach with the legs straight. Slowly bend your knee tightening the back of your thigh. Do 15 reps for each leg. This can be done with the use of resistance bands.
  2. Front leg raises – hold onto something for support with one hand. Swing the opposite leg forward while keeping the leg straight. Swing the leg backwards as far as possible without causing pain. Repeat 5-10 times then switch sides.
  3. Walking lunges – on a standing position step one leg forward and lower the body until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Get back up to standing position and do the same with the other leg. Do 15 reps for each leg. Use weights for added resistance.

Calf strengthening exercises:

  1. Heel raises – Stand on your toes with feet slightly apart; lift the heels as high as possible. Hold onto something for support while doing this. Hold the position for 5 seconds and slowly lower down the heels. Repeat 15-20 times.
  2. Seated calf raise – on a sitting position with knees directly over your feet, slowly lift your heels as high as possible then slowly back down. Keep your back straight when doing the exercise. Weights can be placed over the thighs or use a calf press machine.

IT band strengthening exercises:

  1. Side Leg lifts – While lying on your right side lift the left leg up to about 45 degrees. Do the same on the opposite side. Try to keep the legs and knees straight and perform the exercise with controlled movements. You can use resistance bands or ankle weights for added resistance. Do 15-20 reps each leg for 2 sets.
  2. Side lying clam – lie on your side with hips and knees bent to around 90 degrees, feet together. Lift the upper knee off the lower knee for as high as possible without having pain. Keep the spine stable and isolate the hip. Do the same on the opposite side. Perform 2 sets of 15 reps for each side. Resistance bands can be used around the thighs just above the knee.
  3. Bridging March – While lying on your back lift your hips to bridge position. Lift one foot off the ground while maintaining the bridge position. Get back to starting position and do the same to the other foot. Perform 15 reps for each foot.