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Exercises for Knee Strength and Flexibility

The following exercises can be performed two or three times a week to strengthen leg muscles and create muscle balance. Do these after your walk (or other aerobic exercise) when muscles are warmed up. DO NOT lock your knees.

Bent-Leg Raises

Strengthens the inner thigh muscle to balance the pull on the knee joint from the outer thigh, which is often stronger. Start this exercise using 1 lb. ankle weights.

  • Sit on a chair and straighten one leg.

  • Hold for one minute.

  • Bend your knee to lower that leg about halfway to the floor (a 45-degree angle).

  • Hold for 30 seconds.

  • Return to starting position and rest for one minute.

  • Repeat.

  • Work up to four repetitions for each leg.

  • Advance by adding ankle weights (in ½ lb. increments)

    Straight-Leg Raises

    Strengthens the quadriceps muscles to help support the knee joint. Start this exercise using 1 lb. ankle weights.

  • Sit in a chair with one leg extended, resting your foot on a second chair or bench. (Your leg should be straight.)

  • Lift that foot a few inches while keeping your leg straight.

  • Hold for 10 seconds. Return to resting position for 10 seconds.

  • Repeat.

  • Work up to three minutes of lifting for each leg.

  • Advance by adding ankle weights (in ½ lb. increments)

    Lying Leg Lift

    Strengthens quadriceps and hip flexors. Complements the walking motion by working muscles in opposition that may be under used, such as the smaller quadriceps muscles of the thigh.

  • Lie on your back with right leg straight and extended; and left knee is bent, with left foot flat on floor.

  • Contract the right thigh muscles to straighten (but not lock) the knee.

  • Slowly raise your right leg until knees are parallel. Then lower your leg.

  • Repeat 8–12 times, working up to 2 sets on each side.

  • To advance: Begin holding to a 3–5 count in the up position.


    Wall Sit

    Strengthens hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and abdominal muscles. A lower-intensity alternative to squats and lunges.

  • Stand with lower back against an exercise ball of about 25 inches that rests against a wall. Feet are shoulder-width apart and a comfortable distance from the wall. Body is erect.

  • Slowly bend knees and lower body until thighs are parallel with the floor

  • Do not go lower and do not allow knees to extend beyond feet.

  • Keeps abs contracted and back straight.

  • Pause at the bottom, then roll back up.

  • Repeat 8–12 times, working up to 2 sets.

  • To advance: Increase pause at the bottom to 3, 5, or even 10 counts.


    Bridge

    Strengthens glutes, hamstrings, and trunk, including lower back and abs.

  • Lie on your back, with arms by your side, palms up. Place your feet flat on the floor with knees bent.

  • Use abdominal and gluteal (buttocks) muscles, slowly lift trunk and hips off floor with a smooth, controlled motion.

  • Squeeze buttocks at the top, then slowly lower. (Keep pressure on the shoulders, not on the head, and do not push with the hands.)

  • If you feel cramping in the hamstrings, you'll know they're working too hard; lower slightly to relieve that tightening.

  • Repeat 8–12 times, working up to two sets.

  • To advance: Hold the up position for a 3–5 count


    Calf Raise

    This move builds calf strength and ankle stability, as well as body coordination and balance. Ankle stability is critical to proper knee alignment.

  • Place the ball of one foot on the edge of a raised object, letting your heel and arch extend off the object stretching as far down as possible.

  • Hold on to a chair or the wall for support and keep back straight, head up, and leg locked.

  • Put other foot next to or behind leg being trained.

  • Raise up on toe as high as possible and hold for a quick second while flexing the calf muscle.

  • Lower to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner.

  • Repeat 8–12 times, working up to two sets on each foot.

  • To advance: Add a third set, placing hands on hips for balance.


    Following the strength training perform these simple stretches. Hold each stretch gently (don't stretch too far) for 20 to 30 seconds without straining or bouncing. The longer or faster you walk the more stretching you will probably need. A general guideline is 5 minutes minimum stretching for each 60 minutes walked. (Reminder: Never Stretch Cold Muscles! And Don't Lock Your Knees!)


    Calf Stretch

  • Stand about a foot from a wall (or other solid object) and place your hands on the wall at shoulder-height, shoulder-width apart.

  • Take a step back with your right foot while pushing into the wall.

  • Keep your back straight and press your right heel into the floor.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with other foot.


    Upper Hamstrings and Lower Back

  • Stand and cross your right foot in front of your left. (The back of right ankle is over the front of the left ankle.)

  • Bend and the waist until your back is parallel to the ground

  • Point hands and hang, stretching your back and hamstrings

  • Repeat on the other side


    Back of knee

    This is one of my favorite stretches ... it stretches behind the knee, hamstring, calves, and some back muscles.

  • Stand, placing the front (ball of foot) of your right foot on a step or curb.

  • Keeping your knees and back straight, bend over to touch your toes. (If you can't touch your toes bend as far as comfortable). Hold for 20 seconds

  • Repeat with other foot


    Quadriceps Stretch

  • Lie on your side, with hips and shoulders stacked

  • Grab the top ankle (or shin) and gently pull your leg up and away from the bottom leg. You are not trying to pull your foot to your buttocks, but pulling your quad away from the other leg.

  • Hold for 20 seconds and repeat with other side.


    Hamstring Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with one leg out straight.

  • Bend the other leg at the knee and press the sole of that foot against your opposite inner thigh.

  • Bend at the waist keeping your back straight and touch the toes of your extended leg. (If you can not touch your toes reach as far as comfortable.)

  • Hold 20 seconds, relax. Then stretch the other leg.


    Avoiding Problem Knees (page 1)