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. Here are some commonly asked questions:
- Why should I do knee strengthening exercises?
- How do you strengthen your knees for running?
- What are the best exercises to strengthen knees for running? (VIDEO)
- How often should you do knee strengthening exercises?
- Is it OK to run with a knee support?
- How do you strengthen a weak knee?
- What exercises are bad for your knees?
- Do squats help strengthen knees?
- How do athletes strengthen their knees?
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.
- 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:
The most important thing is to avoid damaging your knees. If you’re in pain when you run or exercise, we recommend stopping and giving your body time to heal. Doing knee strengthening exercises when you feel pain will only cause more damage to your body. If the pain progresses, you should seek advice from a good physiotherapist. However, if you’re pain free check our exercises in a video below. We’ve prepared for you 3 best knee strengthening exercises to do at home or in the gym (in our opinion).
- 1a Clamshell
- 2a Wall Sit with band
- 3a Touchdown (low height)
- 1b Lateral band walk
- 2b Bulgarian Squat
- 3b Touchdown (high height)
We split the exercises into beginner and advanced versions. The beginner ones are great for those who have just came back from an injury or have on/off knee soreness – basically if your knees are more sensitive and you’re being careful with them right now. These are also great knee strengthening exercises for seniors! These simple routines are designed to strengthen your knee with zero or minimal load on your joint. If you can perform them without any pain or discomfort, you can move to the advanced versions – with a higher load. It’s important to observe and listen to your body, and never to push through pain.
We recommend doing the exercises 2-3 times a week, as long as you don’t feel any pain or discomfort. They won't be effective if you do them only once a month... that’s the beauty of strengthening exercises – consistency is the key to success. Your body needs to adapt and change, with the right amount of stimulus involved in the process. Without giving your muscles a task to perform, there’s no growth or improvement. Don’t worry, these exercises won’t take much of your time, but the amount of stress, money and time you can save thanks to them is priceless. Prevention is better than cure.
Thera-Band Resistance Bands
(as featured in the video)
The red band provides medium resistance (5.5 pounds of force when stretched to 200% of its length); green provides a heavier resistance of 6.7 pounds; blue provides heavier resistance (with 8.6 pounds of force). Higher resistance bands are great for people who already work out regularly. Beginners may want to start with a lower one.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.