8 Exercises for Bad Knees
Suffering from bad knees? Here are 8 good exercises for the knees that can give you better muscle strength, less pain and better function. Feel free to share with someone who is bothered by their knees. Or contact us at The pain clinics - Interdisciplinary Health if you have questions.
- Bad knees can lead to bad habits
Many people are not always so good at paying attention to their knees before they start to hurt. It is easy to take them for granted. Knee problems can have a number of causes, such as: Osteoarthrtitis, trauma, myomas, joint irritation, meniscus damage and the like. When we get knee pain, we can be scared off from doing what we should actually be doing - which is to keep moving and exercise specifically. Many therefore forget to do exercises for bad knees - and then they often get worse and worse.
- Last updated: 01.11.2022
- 8 Good Exercises for Bad Knees
Here are 8 good knee exercises for those who want better knee function - the program consists of both stretching exercises and strength exercises. To do some of these exercises, you need an adapted exercise bike or mini band - you can do that obtain here if desired (link opens in new window). Remember that you can also contact our publicly authorized clinicians, including physiotherapists and modern chiropractors, at The pain clinics, if you have questions or want an initial consultation.
Tips: Towards the end of the article, you can watch an exercise video for strengthening the knees. The video is designed so that you can follow it in real time. It is recommended to do the program three times a week for 16 weeks. Adjust the number of repetitions according to functional condition.
Stretching of the calf
Tight calf muscles can be a contributing cause of knee pain. It is therefore recommended that you stretch the back of your calf daily. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat over 3 sets. The illustration below is a good way to stretch the back of the calf. This can also be a good way to counteract leg cramps.
2. Side lunge with elastic rubber band (mini band)
This exercise is excellent training for the seat muscles, which plays a very important role in hip stabilization, and thus, knee stability. Find an exercise band like this one (adapted for just this type of exercise) that can be tied around both ankles as if in a big circle.
Then stand with your feet shoulder-width apart so that there is gentle resistance from the band against your ankles. The knees should be slightly bent and the seat should be slightly backwards in a sort of mid-squat position.
Execution and repetitions
Then take a step to the right with your right foot and leave the left leg standing again, making sure you keep the knee stable, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 repetitions, on both sides, over 2-3 sets.
Video: Side outcome w / elastic
3. Stretching of hamstrings and seat
In several previous articles, we have talked about how reduced function in the thigh muscles can cause knee pain (including patellofemoral pain syndrome). The purpose of this exercise is to gain more flexibility in the hamstring muscles - which are known to contribute to knee problems if they are too tight.
Execution and repetitions
Lie flat on the floor with your back down, preferably on an exercise mat with support under the neck. Then bend one leg towards your chest and then grab the back of your thigh with both hands. Extend the leg in a controlled, calm movement, while pulling the leg towards you. Hold the stretching exercise for 20-30 seconds, while taking deep breaths. Then bend the knee back and return to the starting position. Alternatively, you can use a towel or elastic band to get extra stretch on the back of the thigh. Repeat the exercise 2-3 times on each side.
It is quickly made to forget how important the seat muscles are for both hip and knee stability. Strong gluteal muscles reduce the pressure and strain on the knees.
The bridge is performed by lying on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the ground, with your arms resting at your sides. Your back should be in a neutral curve. Feel free to warm up the seat by performing some light exercises - where you simply tighten the seat muscles, hold it for about 5 seconds and release again. This is an activation exercise that tells the muscles that you plan to use it soon - which in turn can lead to for more correct use during the exercise, as well as reducing the chance of muscle damage.
Execution and repetitions
When you are ready, you perform the exercise by contracting your gluteal muscles (tightening your butt), before lifting your pelvis and hips up towards the ceiling. Make sure you perform the exercise by pushing off through the heels. Raise the pelvis up until the back is in a neutral position, not arched, then slowly lower back to the starting position. The exercise is performed 8-15 repetitions, over 2-3 sets.
5. The VMO exercise (Munchies)
Very important exercise that should be part of any training program against knee pain and knee problems. This is actively used in rehabilitation training after, among other things, cruciate ligament injuries and knee operations. The exercise is easy to perform, but surprisingly heavy, as it isolates the muscle called the Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO) – the innermost of the quadriceps muscles. Many of you who try this training exercise will probably notice that you are considerably less stable on the side where the knee pain is worst.
"- When performing the VMO exercise, you will often discover that you are significantly less steady on the side that is painful."
Lie on your back on an exercise mat. The exercise can also be performed sitting on the floor. Rotate the foot outwards as shown in the picture and then raise the foot towards the ceiling - you should feel it touch the upper inside of the knee and thigh. Feel free to comment in this article on which leg you were weakest in - and if that surprised you.
How many times should I do the exercise?
The exercise is repeated with 8-10 repetitions over 3-4 sets. We recommend that the exercises are done every other day for those who are not used to training, and otherwise according to the "3 days on, 1 day off principle" for those who are used to training regularly. Remember that continuity is the key to success.
6. Oyster exercise (Mussel)
The oyster practice is also known as scallop or mussel. A very good exercise for more proper use of the seat muscles, especially the gluteus medius. You will feel that it 'burns' a bit in the seat after only a few repetitions - suggesting that you are, most likely, undermining this important part of the supporting muscle.
Execution and repetitions
Lie on your side with your hips bent at 90 degrees and your knees on top of each other. Let your lower arm act as support under your head and let your upper arm rest on your body or the floor. Lift the top knee up from the bottom knee, while keeping the heels in contact with each other - a bit like a clam opening, hence the name. Focus on contracting the gluteal muscles when performing the exercise. Repeat the exercise over 10-15 repetitions over 2-3 sets.
Video - Oyster Exercise w / elastic:
7. Toe lift and heel lift
Toe raises and its lesser-known little brother, heel raises, are both exercises that are important for the muscles in the arch of the foot and the sole of the foot - which can lead to less stress on the knees. The exercises can be performed on bare ground or on the stairs. Perform 10 repetitions of both exercises over 3 sets.
Position A: Start with your feet in a neutral position and lift yourself up onto your toes - while pushing down towards the football.
Position B: Same starting point. Then lift your feet up towards the heels - here it may be appropriate to lean against a wall.
8. "Monster walks" with elastic
"Monster walk" is a brilliant exercise for knees, hips and pelvis. It combines what we have learned, and used, in the previous 5 exercises in a good way. After only a short time with this exercise, you will feel that it burns deep in the seat. For this exercise we recommend the use of minibands (link opens in a new browser window).
Use an exercise band that can be tied around both ankles as in a large circle. Then stand with your feet shoulder-width apart so that there is good resistance from the band against your ankles. Then you should walk, while working to keep your legs shoulder-width apart, a bit like Frankenstein or a mummy – hence the name. The exercise is performed for 30-60 seconds over 2-3 sets
Self-measures and good advice against knee pain
At our different clinic departments at Vondtklinikkene our physiotherapists and chiropractors constantly receive questions about how the patient himself can contribute to the fastest possible recovery and healing. Our publicly authorized clinicians are happy to recommend the use of knee compression support for increased stability and relief during the injury period.
- Comprehensive self-measures that can be easily used in everyday life
Our other advice is based on the fact that many people with knee pain have very tight calf muscles and Achilles problems. Precisely for this reason, it may be appropriate to try one adjustable night rail (which stretches the calf muscles while you sleep). We know how important it is that the self-measures are easy to use, as the vast majority of us can fall into a time crunch in a hectic everyday life.
Tip 1: Custom knee compression support (link opens in a new browser window)
A knee compression support can provide effective and good support for a painful knee.
Tip 2: Adjustable night rail (against tight calves)
As clinicians, we know that the calf muscles can have a significant impact on the knees. Studies have shown that more elastic leg muscles can have a positive effect on knee pain and symptoms due to knee osteoarthritis.¹ Regular stretching and use of night shine, as shown above, can contribute to increased flexibility and elasticity in the calf muscles.
VIDEO: Safe Exercises for Knee Pain (16-minute program)
In the video below shows chiropractor Alexander Andorff come up with a training program that you can carry out in real time. The program is 16 minutes long and contains exercises that are safe for your knees. It is used minibands on certain of the exercises, but they can also be done without.
Feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel for free for more good exercise programs.
Pain clinics: Contact us or book an appointment
We offer modern assessment, treatment and rehabilitation training for knee pain and knee injuries.
Feel free to contact us via one of our clinic departments (the clinic overview opens in a new window) or on vår Facebook-side (Vondtklinikkenne - Health and Training) if you have any questions. For appointment booking, we have XNUMX-hour online booking at the various clinics so that you can find the consultation time that suits you best. You are of course also welcome to call us during the clinics' opening hours. We have interdisciplinary departments in, among other places, Oslo (incl Lambert seats) and Viken (Raw wood og Eidsvoll Sound). Our skilled therapists look forward to helping you.
Exercises for Bad Knees - Sources and Research:
- Alshami et al, 2020. Girth, strength, and flexibility of the calf muscle in patients with knee osteoarthritis: A case–control study. J Taibah Univ Med Sci. 2020 Jun; 15(3): 197–202.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons 2.0, Creative Commons, Freestockphotos and submitted reader contributions.