Knee strengtheners

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These are basic exer­cises for trouble­some knees. Start with the first and work through them in order

What it’s good for Targets the spe­cific thigh muscles that sup­port and pro­tect the knee joints. Everyday bene­fits include:

  • A good way to start strength­en­ing very weak leg muscles
  • Reduced pain, dis­com­fort and grat­ing or click­ing sen­sa­tions in the knee
  • Less pres­sure on your knees when you bend them
  • Increased pro­tec­tion against arth­ritis or other joint prob­lems in your knees
How often to do it Daily
Equipment you’ll need Kitchen chair

Caution: If you have back prob­lems, make sure you sup­port your back when doing these exer­cises, either with lots of pil­lows, or by sit­ting against a wall or bed-​headboard

Sitting with leg long and hand resting on kneecap to feel muscleKnee strengthener 1: muscle activ­a­tions

  • Sit tall at the front of the chair, one leg out straight in front
  • Pull your knee-​cap towards you strongly, so your thigh muscles (front-​of-​leg) tighten up
  • Hold for 5 seconds, remem­ber­ing to keep breath­ing
  • Release the knee cap, relax moment­ar­ily, then repeat

Aim to do 15 repeats on each leg

♦ You need to feel your knee­cap slightly mov­ing towards you, and/​or your lower thigh (front-​of-​leg) muscles tight­en­ing up. But if you are just start­ing out with exer­cise, it can be hard to tell. Placing a hand over the top of your knee can help you feel if you are get­ting it right. And watch out that you don’t bend your knee at all, or pull your foot up and down. Both of these are wrong!

Alternative pos­i­tions

  1. Standing: lean against a wall with your bum, shoulders and head touch­ing the wall. Feet on the ground. Pull knee­caps up and hold exactly as above
  2. Sitting with back sup­port: you can sit either against a wall or a bed-​headboard if you prefer. Make sure your bum is against the wall and your back sup­por­ted, and have both legs out long in front of you. Then do the exer­cise exactly as above

Sitting forwards with long leg lifted just off the floorKnee strengthener 2: seated leg lifts

  • Sit tall at the front of a chair, hands hold­ing the sides of the chair to help sup­port your back
  • Lengthen one leg out fully in front, heel on the floor,
  • Pull your knee-​cap to tighten your thigh muscles (as in pre­vi­ous exer­cise), then lift your whole leg so your heel comes just an inch off the floor
  • Hold it there for a count of 3, then return and relax your knee­cap
  • Check you are sit­ting tall and repeat, same leg

Aim to do 10 repeats on each leg

Caution: If you are strug­gling to sit upright dur­ing your leg lifts, put lots of pil­lows or cush­ions behind your back to sup­port you, so you don’t get back strain. Then click here to start work on strength­en­ing your back muscles

♦ Don’t be temp­ted to lift your leg high. It will only make you lean back­wards, which is not the point

When you can com­fort­ably man­age 10 leg lifts, make the exer­cise harder by hold­ing each lift for 5 seconds

Sitting at back of chair with one leg out longSitting back in chair, foot up on toe ready to startKnee strengthener 3: seated leg exten­sions

  • Sit com­fort­ably at the back of your chair, with your back sup­por­ted
  • Draw one foot slightly towards you to go up on the toe: point­ing your toe and heel in the air
  • Sitting tall, push your toe away and upwards, to lengthen and lift your leg into the air
  • Hold it there, com­pletely straight, pulling your knee­cap, for a count of 3, then care­fully reverse the move­ment back to your start­ing point with tip­toe on the ground
  • Check your sit­ting pos­ture and repeat

Aim for 10 repeats on each leg

Caution: if this leg lift causes any back pain, skip this exer­cise

♦ Do not try to lift your leg high. Think more about length­en­ing it away from you and hold­ing it as straight as pos­sible. As you get stronger you will be able to raise it a little higher

1. Hoild each lift for 5 seconds

2. Add a leg weight and hold each lift for 3 seconds. Note: once you add the leg weight, only do this exer­cise every other day, as you will need to leave time for muscle recov­ery between ses­sions (click here to find out more about work­ing with weights)

Now you are ready to go on to tougher exer­cises:

Sit and stand leg strengthener



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