The knee is one the most commonly injured joints in the human body. However, it is never too late to strengthen both the knee and the surrounding muscles to prevent further injury. The surrounding muscles help support the knee joint and can be strengthened through a variety of rehabilitation exercises. The surrounding muscles that will be strengthened in the below exercises include the quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), abductor (outside the thigh), and adductor (inside the thigh).
1. Straight Leg Lifts: help to strengthen the quadriceps muscles (at the front of the thigh).
o Instructions: Start in a seated position on a flat surface. Begin by tightening the quad and then being to lift leg 6-12 inches off the surface with toes pointed upwards.
2. Wall Sits: work to strengthen quadriceps and hamstring muscles. These muscles help to manage runner acceleration and jumping ability. The hamstring muscle helps to support and stabilize both the hip and knee joints.
o Instructions: Place back against wall and bend knees to a 30 to 90 degree angle (degree varies based on pain/ range of motion). Keep feet parallel to shoulders width, and ensure knees never flex past toes. Hold sit for short period of time (30 seconds to a minute)
3. Ankle Pumps with Resistance: help to reduce swelling and circulate blood to the knee joint.
o Instructions: While sitting, place a Theraband or resistant band on the ball of the foot. Begin to pump ankle against band with leg in a straight position, tighten all muscles with each pump. (Hold each pump for 30 seconds)
4. Short-Arc Knee Extensions: helps to reduces knee swelling and builds quad strength
o Instructions: Begin by utilizing a foam roller or several rolled up towels under the knee. Lay upright on a flat surface with one knee elevated by the roll and the other knee in a bent/upright position. Help to tighten quadriceps and hold position for a few seconds before lowering foot to the surface.
5. Abductor Raise: strengthens muscles outside the thigh.
o Instructions: Lay down on side with leg on the floor in the bent position while the other leg remains straight. Lift top leg for 5-10 seconds then lower. (utilize ankle weights to increase intensity of the exercise)
6. Double Leg Calf Raises: strengthens calf muscles
o Instructions: Stand with heals on the ground and legs parallel to the shoulders. Begin to rise heals off the ground and hold for 5-10 seconds. (if needed utilize a flat surface to maintain balance)
7. Hamstring Curls: Strengthen the back of your thigh (hamstring) muscles.
o Instructions: Start standing with front of legs against a flat surface (example: wall or table). Begin to to flex one knee against the surface and hold knee back until exercise begins to cause pain. (utilize ankle weights to increase intensity of the exercise)
8. Step ups: help to build muscle endurance and balance
o Instructions: Utilize an aerobic step to repeatedly walk up and down. Place one leg on step and then repeat with second leg. Alternate reps from front steps, back steps and side steps. Repeat motion for up to 50 times and increase speed as exercise advances.
9. Stationary Bike: helps to increase strength and range of motion of knee
o Instructions: Start on bike by rotating pedals at a slow pace. If unable to fully rotate, cycle pedals to 90 degrees and rotate back and forth ((Depending on the current state of the knee’s range in motion).
10. Hip Extension Exercises: stabilizes pelvis and strengthens gluteus maximus, adductor and hip muscles to support lower extremities
o Instructions: Start on all fours with elbows and knees on the ground. Elevate one leg to 90 degrees and start to tighten muscles at the back of the thigh as leg is raised to the ceiling. Hold each lift at the highest point and drop knee back to the ground between each set.