Do you remember the old childhood song that went, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes”? If you do, you probably remember excitedly dancing to it while bouncing up and down touching each extremity mentioned as you sang it.
But the older you grow into adulthood, the greater the chances are that this song’s dance moves may not be as easy to mimic with age as they once were. Aching joints and sore knees can make things like bending, dancing, and even walking feel like a pain!
Lots of factors can play into knee issues, including past car accidents, old sports injuries, severe falls, high-impact trauma to the knee, and even genetics.
What's Causing Your Knee Pain?
Still unsure where your knee pain may be coming from? If the causes of your sore knees don’t match any of the reasons listed above, alternate causes could be excess weight or not giving your body enough calcium.
There are some ways to help improve knee strength, but before beginning any new physical fitness routine, be sure to consult with your primary care physician to ensure the exercises* you’ll be performing won’t be impacting your knees in a negative way.
You’ll notice that a lot of these exercises focus most on building the muscles around the knee (e.g., calves and quadriceps). Focusing on exercises that help build strength in these areas will help add extra protection to the knee joint.
1. Befriend the bike.
Stationary bikes are a great way to help warm up the joints without putting too much pressure on them. It is a great low impact exercise that can be done with minimal risk of injury. A brisk walk could also be done as an alternative to the bike.
2. Straight Leg Raises
- Lie your back against the floor of a flat surface.
- Bend one knee and make sure that same leg’s foot rests flat against the floor.
- Keep your alternate leg straight and raise it up to the height of the opposite leg’s bent knee.
- Repeat as needed. Switch legs.
3. Hamstring Curls
Lie flat on your stomach and slowly bring your heel as close to your glute (or butt) as you can. Hold that position for 3 seconds. Then slowly bring your leg back down to the ground. Alternate legs with each lift.
4. Prone Straight Leg Raises
Lie flat on your stomach with your legs out straight. Tighten your glute and leg muscles and slowly raise one leg up towards the ceiling. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Slowly lower it back down to the floor. Switch legs and repeat.
Note: If you begin experiencing back pain, you may be lifting your leg too high. Lower the elevation of your lifted leg to help ease the ache.
5. Wall Squats
Place your back flat against a wall. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Slowly lower your body downwards until your knees are bent out at a 90-degree angle. You should look and feel like you’re sitting on an invisible chair. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Stand back up and repeat.
Note: Always keep your back and pelvis flush against the wall. If your knees begin to feel too much pressure in them during the wall sit, don’t squat down as far. Adjust as needed.
6. Calf Raises
Find a stable wall, chair, railing or otherwise, and place your hands securely against it. Begin by slowly raising your heels as high as you can, then lower. You should feel this in your calf muscles.
Use a step bench, stair, or elevated platform for this exercise. Step up onto the elevated platform. Using one leg at a time, step backward, gently touching your toes to the floor, then rise/step back up. For increased difficulty, touch your heel against the floor when you step down.
8. Side Leg Raises
Lie on your side with your legs stacked vertically to one another. Bend your bottom leg approximately 90 degrees for added support. Ensure your top leg is straight and raise it to approximately 45 degrees. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then lower it slowly and relax. Repeat as needed. Switch sides when done.
9. Leg Presses
NOTE: Before performing this exercise, please ask a gym staff member to show you how to use the machine properly to avoid any injury.
First, choose a weight that is comfortable for you. Sit on the leg press machine. Make sure your head is in an upright neutral position and against the headrest. Place your back firmly against the back support. Make sure the seat is adjusted to a comfortable setting.
If your gym offers a pool you should definitely take advantage of this low-impact form of cardio. Swimming or water aerobics classes can help give your body full range of motion while providing minimal pressure to your knees.
NEXT LEVEL: If any of the exercises listed above become too easy, you can increase the level of difficulty by adding ankle weights.
*Exercise suggestions from WebMD. Link to the article can be found in the reference section below.
- “Slideshow: Exercises to Help Knee Pain in Pictures.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/pain-management/knee-pain/injury-knee-pain-16/slideshow-knee-exercises.