Knee Exercises

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Knee Strengthening Exercises

Note: If you are experiencing knee pain or have a knee injury or condition, ask your doctor or physical therapist what exercises are appropriate (safest and most effective) for you to do before performing knee exercises.

How Often to do Knee Strengthening Exercises:
In general, any strengthening exercises should only be done about three times per week on non-consecutive days to allow healing and to avoid overuse injury. However, many exercises used early in knee rehabilitation are often less intensive and can be done daily, even several times per day. Check with your physician or physical therapist.

How Many Repetitions and Sets of Strengthening Exercises:

If you are a beginner to exercise, start with five repetitions of each exercise - or less if the exercise is difficult. If you do not have post exercise pain, slowly add a couple of repetitions each week until you reach 10 - 15 repetitions. To increase endurance add a second set of 10 -15 repetitions after you can handle one set. When two sets because easy to do, you can add a third. Rest about 30 seconds between sets.

*NOTE: There are several strengthening exercises to choose from for some muscles. Choose one per exercise session for a particular muscle group if you are a beginner just doing one set (unless instructed otherwise by your physician or therapist). If you have progressed to two or three sets, you can mix strengthening exercises for the same muscle group.

Do not exercise the same muscle group on consecutive days for the more intense strengthening exercises.

WARM UP first! Warming up with 5 minutes of low-impact aerobics, such as walking or riding a stationary exercise bike, increases blood supply to the muscles to help prevent injury.

Keep Breathing throughout the exercises. Do not hold your breath.

Quadriceps Strengthening

Note: Only do one quad strengthening exercise on the days you exercise if you are doing no more than one set - with the exception of the quad strengthening contractions, which can be done additionally. Refer to How Many Repetitions and Sets of Strengthening Exercises above. If you have progressed to doing two sets of quad exercises, you can pick two different quad exercises.

Quad Strengthening Contractions:

Sit in chair.
Move forward so that you are sitting at edge of chair.
Extend legs, heels to floor.
Keep knees straight (or as straight as possible if you have arthritis.)
Tighten thigh muscles.
Hold for count of 10.
Relax for count of 3.
Do 10 repetitions.
You can do this several times throughout the day. You can build up to 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions at a time

quad contractions
Quad Strengthening Short-Arc Leg Extensions:

Sit or lie on floor. Place a rolled up towel under knee for support. Straighten leg, lifting heel off floor. Keep your leg straight with foot raised off floor (about six inches off the floor - height will vary according to the size of the towel). Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your heel to the floor, bending your knee. Do 10 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

short-arch leg extensions
Quad Strengthening Leg lifts:

Lie flat on back. Bend left knee at 90-degree angle, keeping foot flat on floor.
Keep the right leg straight and slowly lift it until right foot is about the height of the left knee (about 10 inches off floor). Hold for a count of 3. Repeat 10 times. Switch sides.
Work up to 10 sets of 10 over several weeks.

Alternately, the leg may be lifted until the knees are at the same height.

Safety Tip:
Leg lifts: Lifting both legs at the same time causes excessive stress on your lower back so only lift one leg at a time; the opposite leg should be kept bent with foot on floor.

straight leg lifts

Quad Strengthening Knee Dips:

Stand with knees slightly flexed. Point your toes straight ahead.
Make sure your kneecaps are also pointed straight ahead.
Lift one leg up and balance on the other leg. Slowly lower yourself up and down ONLY a few inches. Keep the knee of the leg you are balancing on slightly flexed. Your knees must remain pointing straight forward. Do not let them turn inward. Stand straight, do not lean your body to one side. Do 10 dips. Switch sides.
If you feel pain in your knees, start with fewer dips.

Quad Strengthening Squats or Partial Squats(also strengthens hamstrings and glutes):

Stand. Keep back straight, feet hip-width apart with toes pointing straight ahead or very slightly out to the sides if this feels more comfortable. Slowly lower and move your buttocks backward as if you were sitting in a chair (don't bend your knees beyond a 90-degree angle, if 90 degrees is too difficult bend even less - some people with arthritis may not be able to go beyond 45 degrees). Knees should be aligned over the feet - do not let your knees travel to either side. Hold position for a count of 5 then tighten your buttocks and return to standing position, pushing yourself up with your heels. Do ten squats. Stop if you feel pain in your knees.

squat exercise
Safety Tip: Make sure your knees do not extend beyond your toes when doing squats or partial squats. Keeping your weight behind your knees reduces the pressure on the knee joint during the squat. Bending the knees beyond 90 degrees (a right angle) places excessive strain on the knee.

Warning: Squats can aggravate runners knee, as bending the knee (especially while supporting the weight of the body) increases pressure between the back of the kneecap and the thighbone Start with a partial squat if a full squat causes problems, or try the wall squat shown below. Wall squats are a little less stressful on the knee joints than the regular squat, as the wall supports some of your body weight and ensures knees do not travel over toes.

Wall Squats:

Stand with back against wall, feet about 18 inches away from wall.
Slowly slide down the wall, until your thighs are parallel with the floor (knees at 90 degrees) - or as far as you can go without causing knee pain.
Hold position for a count of 5. Slowly slide back up the wall, pushing yourself up with your heels.
Repeat ten times.
Alternately, hold position for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat.

Note: Your knees should be lined up over your ankles when thighs are parallel to floor- you may have to adjust how close your feet are to the wall.

wall squat

knee exercises continued...