The knee is the largest joint in the body and one that gets heavy use every day. Strengthening the muscles around your knees helps you move effectively, minimize knee pain that can be worsened by improper knee function, and prevent injuries.
There are several exercises you can do at home to support your knees. Seven of the most helpful are described below.
1. Seated Knee Extensions
This exercise targets your quadriceps (top of thigh) muscles.
- Sit on a sturdy table or desk where your legs hang freely and can extend out in front of you.
- Extend your leg, raising your foot until your leg is straight.
- Hold for 3-5 seconds.
- Slowly lower your leg and return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times with one leg, then do the same with the other leg.
2. Standing Hamstring Curls
This exercise engages your hamstrings (back of thigh) and gluteal (buttock) muscles.
- Stand with your knees 1–2 inches apart. Steady yourself with a hand on a chair, countertop, or wall.
- Slowly bend your knee, raising your foot behind you while keeping the thigh perpendicular to the ground. Stop when your thigh and lower leg create a 90-degree angle. Keep your straight leg slightly bent rather than locked.
- Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Do this a total of 3-5 times on one leg and then repeat with the other leg.
3. Standing Step-Ups
This exercise strengthens your quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.
- Use a sturdy exercise platform that’s no taller than 6 inches.
- Place a foot on the platform and step up, bringing the other foot up next to it but not onto the platform.
- Hold this position, with your weight on the foot that’s on the platform, for up to 5 seconds.
- Return the “floating” foot slowly to the floor followed by the other foot.
- Repeat 5-10 times and then switch sides and do 5-10 repetitions.
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4. Heel and Toe Raises
This exercise engages your calf muscles.
- Stand barefoot on the floor near a table or wall for balance if needed and with your feet a few inches apart.
- Slowly raise on the toes of both feet, hold for 1 second, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Continue by slowly raising the heels of both feet and holding for 1 second before returning to the starting position.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
5. One-Legged Dips
This exercise focuses on your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.
- Use two sturdy chairs with tall backs. Put one on either side of you with the seats facing away from you and the backs closest to you. Place a hand on the top of each chair back to help you balance.
- Keep one leg straight and lift it approximately 12 inches off the ground in front of you.
- Slowly bend the knee of the planted leg a few inches, keeping your weight on the heel of that foot. Don’t allow the knee to move farther forward than your toes.
- Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.
- Slowly straighten the planted leg and bring the other foot back to the floor.
- Repeat 5-10 times and then switch sides.
6. Wall Squats
This exercise targets your quadriceps and gluteal muscles.
- Stand with your head, shoulders, back, and hips against a wall.
- Maintaining contact with the wall, position both feet approximately 24 inches from the wall and about hip-width apart.
- Slowly slide your back down until your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor. Don’t let your bottom sink lower than the height of your knees and don’t let your knees go forward beyond your toes.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Slowly slide back up, leaving your feet where they are.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
This exercise strengthens your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexor muscles.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a big step forward.
- Slowly lower your hips, bending both knees as you do. Don’t let your front knee go forward past your toes.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds.
- Push off your front heel to rise back up and step back into the starting position.
- Repeat, stepping forward with the other foot.
- Continue alternating until you’ve completed the exercise 5-10 times on each side.
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