Knee Strengthening Exercises for Runners
Strength & Cross Training Advice,Running Injuries: Knee
Knee Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Why should I do knee strengthening exercises?

Knee pain is the most common injury from running. Most of us runners have either had an issue with our knee(s), have a recurring problem or there’s a high possibility we might have one in the future. Introducing strengthening exercises to our training routine can prevent or minimise the risk of a knee injury. It’s also helpful if we have recurring knee pain. Strength exercises are highly recommended if you’re training for any race. Increasing the load and intensity of training can cause extra stress on a knee joint. Strengthening your body will give you peace of mind and prepare you to do your best on race day. 

How do you strengthen your knees for running?

  • The key muscles involved in stabilising the knee cap are the quadriceps and hamstrings. However, the glutes medius and maximus play a massive role as well, so we shouldn't forget to include them in our workout.
  • Along with strengthening these muscles, we should improve and maintain the mobility of the joints directly below and above the knee: i.e. the hips and ankles.
  • A lack of stretching – or the right stretches – can definitely also affect the knee joint.
  • Don’t forget to check your running shoes. If they’re not providing the correct support for your running style, or if the cushioning is dead, then your knees will be taking the strain. We are always happy to do a quick analysis and advise whether your shoes are performing correctly for you.
  • Check out the videos below for more information about mobility exercises and stretches you could add to your programme:


Is it OK to run with a knee support? If so, what is the best knee support for running?

A knee support keeps the joint in a place, reducing pressure and high impact. However, in most situations, you won’t heal your knee only by wearing a knee support. Instead, your knees are more likely to heal with the appropriate amount of rest, mobility, stretching, strengthening and rehab exercises – as well as the right footwear.

I always treat a knee support as an emergency kit to use if my knees are a bit sore, and I can feel that they’re sensitive, but I really, really want to run or race. Usually I use them for walking, or for running only if it is not painful. I like a more flexible version for running – the ‘sleeves’ don’t dig or chafe, but still give the right amount of stabilisation. An open knee support is more substantial – I wouldn’t wear it for running, but it gives a high level of support for activities like walking, etc.

OS1st KS7 Compression Knee Support
Black £23.00

U.P. Compression Elastic Knee Support
Black £17.00

U.P. Elastic Knee Support
Black £9.00

LP Open Knee Support
Blue £13.25

How do you strengthen a weak knee?

Carefully! ;-) Start from basic load-free exercises and build up from there. For example, instead of doing a squat-type exercise with weights, start with a lying down exercise like the clamshell or bridge. Our video above shows a few exercises and progressions, so you can choose an appropriate option for you.

What exercises are bad for your knees?

If your knees are in pain you should avoid any exercises with knee flexion – so any bending knee exercises like squats, lunges, etc. Check out our Strength Workout for Injured Runners for simple ideas on how to strengthen your muscles if you’re injured.

If your knees are not in pain, you should be able to perform any type of exercises IF performed with the right technique and appropriate load.

Do squats help strengthen knees?

All squat variations (double leg, back, front, goblin, single leg, Bulgarian, and many, many more!) are amazing for strengthening the knee. But I’m going to repeat it again: IF performed with the right technique and appropriate load. For example, a squat is the perfect exercise to strengthen your knees. However, performing 20 repetitions of back squats with a 50 kg barbell on your back without the right technique and preparation would probably ruin your knees for a few months ahead… you know what I mean?

How do athletes strengthen their knees?

A professional approach to knee strengthening doesn’t only focus on strengthening exercises. Sufficient mobility of the joints below and above – so ankles and hips – should be the main thing to address. Poor mobility of the hips or ankles can pull the knee cap away from its natural trajectory.

The high-impact nature of running or jumping brings a high risk of injury. If the mobility level is correct, then it’s time to work on strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Of course, you can do both things simultaneously, but building up the muscles without addressing the right mobility can create an endless, recurring knee problem.

These are exercises that we've found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not certified instructors. Always consult your specialist before beginning any exercise programme. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

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