Healthy Living

21 Simple Exercises You Can Do to Make Your Knees Strong

21 Simple Exercises You Can Do to Make Your Knees Strong
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21 Simple Exercises You Can Do to Make Your Knees Strong
This article is shared with permission from our friends at Paleohacks.

Knee pain is common problem that plagues people of all ages. In the US, it’s the cause for about 1/3 of all doctor’s visits for muscle and bone pain. It can affect our daily life, ability to participate in activities, and even sleep. Here are 21 moves to eliminate your knee pain.

Many times, knee pain is actually caused by tight muscles or muscle imbalances — also very common in Americans, due to the crazy amount of desk hours we put in.

These are 21 of the best foam rolling exercises, stretches, and strengthening exercises than can help release those tight muscles and strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint to get you back to your old self in no time!

Foam Rolling Stretches


Quads.jpgLay face down, almost in a plank position on your elbows, with the foam roller just under your hips on your quads. Shift as much weight as possible onto the foam roller and slowly roll down your legs to just above the knee and roll back up.

Also, try externally rotating your legs to hit the inside quad muscles, and internally rotating your legs to hit the outside quad muscles.



Lay on your side, with the bottom RIGHT leg placed onto a foam roller between the hip and the knee. Cross your LEFT leg over and place the foot on the floor.

Place as much weight as possible into the bottom leg and roll from the hip to just above the knee and back up. Repeat on the other leg.

Inner Thighs

Inner-Thigh-Foam-Roll.jpgLay on your stomach on a mat as if you were getting ready to perform a forearm plank. Place the foam roller vertically with your body a few inches to your RIGHT.

Bend the RIGHT knee out to the side and place the inside of your thigh on top of the foam roller, avoiding the knee joint. Staying propped up on your elbows, rock your body weight side to side and maneuver a few inches to each side on your elbows to roll out the inner thigh muscles.

Once you feel the muscles release, switch sides.


Glutes-Piriformis.jpgSit on top of the foam roller with your RIGHT ankle crossed over your LEFT knee. Shift your weight to the RIGHT slightly to apply pressure onto your right glute.

Roll forward and back slightly to release, then switch sides.


Calves.jpgSit on the floor and place the foam roller under your RIGHT lower leg, between the base of your calves and your achilles. Cross your LEFT leg over your right.

Press into your hands and lift your hips off the ground to apply pressure onto the roller. Slowly walk your hands towards the foam roller to roll it up your leg.

Stop just below the knee and roll back down. The most sensitive spot will mostly likely be at the base of your calf muscles. Repeat on the other leg.

Hip Flexors

Hip_Flexors.jpgThis can sometimes be a tricky muscle group to reach. The best way to hit it is to angle the upper part of the foam roller away from you so that the bottom part of it lines up with the crease of your pelvis and hips.

Roll back and forth a few inches to release the hip flexors and shift your weight slightly from side to side to hit those muscles a little differently. Repeat on the other side.

Find demonstrations and a full body foam rolling sequence here.


Quad Stretches

Quad-Stretch.jpgIf you need help balancing, place your LEFT hand on a wall or chair next to you. Otherwise, place your hand on your hips and balance on your LEFT leg.

Bend your RIGHT knee, bringing your heel toward your glutes. Place your RIGHT hand over the top of your foot where your shoelaces are, and gently pull your heel closer in towards your glutes.

Engage your abdominals so that your back doesn’t arch, and to deepen the stretch slightly.

Hold for 30-60 seconds and then switch sides.

Figure 4 Stretch/Thread the Needle Pose

Thread-the-Needle-Stretch-e1460510008231.jpgLay on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Cross your RIGHT ankle over your LEFT knee as if making a figure “4”.

Keeping your hips grounded and your lower back pressing into the mat, pull the LEFT knee in towards the chest, threading your RIGHT hand between your legs.

Clasp your hands underneath your LEFT knee to help pull the knee deeper into the stretch. Focus on keeping the RIGHT knee open to really stretch the hip.

Breathe deeply and hold for at least 30 seconds on each side. (See a demonstration here.)

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring-Stretch.jpgHave a seat on the floor and extend your RIGHT leg out straight, as you bend your LEFT knee and place the bottom of the foot to the inside of your RIGHT leg.

Reach both arms forward towards to your RIGHT foot, and gently pull against your calf, ankle, or foot to increase the stretch.

Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds, and then switch sides.

Hips – Low Lunge/ Crescent Lunge/ Pigeon

Crescent-Lunge-Stretch.jpgAny of these hip-opening variations are great to open up tight hip flexors and flight the effects of sitting all day. Check out these hip opening yoga poses to help you stretch the hips.

Hold each pose for 30-60 seconds.


Calf-Stretch.jpgStand closely next to a wall, step, or curb. Bring your RIGHT toes up the wall as you strongly flex your foot to begin feeling a stretch in the calves.

Lean your body weight slightly into the wall to deepen the stretch and hold for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.


Single Leg Balances

Single-Leg-Balance.jpgThese simple exercises are easily overlooked. But having strong stabilizing muscles is important to keep your knee cap in place and prevent pain.

Simply shift your weight to one foot as you raise the opposite foot off the ground a few inches.

Hold for 30-60 seconds and then switch sides.

Quad “Set” or Engagement

Quad-Set.jpgAnother simple but effective exercise is simply “engaging” your quadricep muscles. Have a seat on the floor and extend one leg out straight.

Using the muscles of the leg, tighten the front leg muscles by trying to press the back of the knee down into the floor. The heel may raise an inch or so off the ground.

Hold the set for 5-10 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times per leg.

Outer Thigh Hip (Leg Abduction)

Outter-Thigh-Exercise.gifLay on a mat on your LEFT side, and prop yourself on your bottom elbow (shown), or rest your head on your bottom arm like a pillow.

Bring your feet just slightly in front of you, stacking your feet one on top of the other, and keep your abdominals engaged.

Thinking of reaching your leg out away from you as far as possible, lift the leg a few inches off the ground. Focus on lengthening the leg, rather than getting it super high.

Complete 10-15 repetitions, and then repeat on the other side.

Inner Thighs Hip (Leg Adduction)

Inner-Thigh-Exercise.gifSet up for this exercise just as with the exercise above, only this time, bend the top leg and place the bottom of the foot behind your bottom leg, so that your knee is pointing up to the ceiling.

This time, focus on using the inner thigh of the bottom leg to slightly lift the leg off the mat. Again, the leg doesn’t have to get high, think more about lengthening through your muscles.

Complete 10-15 repetitions on each leg.


Clam-Exercise.gifJust as in the previous two exercises, you will start in the same position, only this time bend the knees slightly so that they are a few inches in front of you.

Keeping your feet glued together, open the knee slightly, as if opening a book. The knee doesn’t have to lift very high, but think instead about rotating from the hip socket.

Complete 10-15 repetitions and then switch sides.

Lateral Band Walks

Band-X-Walks.gifGrab a resistance band and place it under the arches of your feet. Hold onto the handles and cross the band in front of you making an “X.”

Slightly pull on the bands to add some resistance. Keeping the feet completely parallel to each other, step the RIGHT foot out to the RIGHT, and then with control, step the LEFT foot over to meet it.

Take 10-15 steps to the RIGHT, and then “walk” back to the LEFT for the same amount of steps.

Step Ups

Step-Ups-1.gifFacing the chair, about six to twelve inches away from it, place your RIGHT foot entirely on the chair. Pressing through the RIGHT heel, step onto the chair, straightening the leg.

Focus on using the glutes and engaging the hamstrings. Lower the LEFT foot back to the floor, while keeping the RIGHT foot on the chair.

Repeat 10-15 repetitions with the RIGHT leg, and then switch sides. Check how to to step up here, and get some ideas for other glute strengtheners too!

Wall Sit

Wall-Sit.jpgFind an open, flat wall and stand next to it with your back flat against it. Walk your feet forwards about 2 feet or so (about your own thigh-length away from the wall) and lower down into a squat position with a 90-degree bend in your knees.

Make sure to keep your knees in line with your toes, press your tailbone into the wall, and keep your shoulders back. To make this more advanced, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand or on your thighs.

Hold for 30 seconds to start, and progress to 60 seconds as you become stronger.


Squat-1.gifMany people still believe that squats are “bad for your knees”…nothing is farther from the truth. (how do you think cavemen went to the bathroom thousands of years ago?)

Doing squats properly is actually essential for healthy knee joints. Find a full tutorial how-to, and common mistakes here to get those knees working!

Complete 15-20 repetitions, and begin to slowly add weight when you feel ready to progress.


Lunge-1.gifLunges are also like squats, and sometimes get a bad rap. But again, they are one of the most primal movements we can do.

It’s also important to make sure you are doing your lunges properly. This guide will help you perfect your lunges and build some serious knee strength and stability.

Complete 15-20 repetitions, and begin to slowly add weight when you feel ready to progress.



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