8 exercises to prevent and relieve knee pain

Julia Baverstock Julia Baverstock Wellbeing Personal Trainer
Julia Baverstock, Senior Personal Trainer at Nuffield Health Crawley Central, has put together some exercises to help you strengthen your knees and relieve knee pain. She also offers some useful advice on preventing knee pain.

Doing exercises that work the muscles around your knees gives you the strength and flexibility to move freely without pain. This helps you prevent as well as recover from problems such as stiff knees or sprained knees.

Here are 8 simple knee-strengthening exercises that you can do either in the gym or at home. The first 4 are part of our Joint Pain Programme.

If any of these exercises are painful, you should find an alternative. A physiotherapist or personal trainer will be able to advise you on the best bespoke exercise plan for you.

Exercise 1: Squat

Exercise 2: Leg extension

Exercise 3: Step up

Exercise 4: Stability challenge

Exercise 5: Foam roller exercise

  • In a forearm plank position, place a foam roller under your right thigh
  • Put your body weight on your leg and roll the foam roller from below your hip, to just above your knee
  • As you roll, try to find a tender spot and breathe, focusing on the exhalation. When a tender spot eases, move on to another tender spot
  • Then do the same on your left leg
  • Now switch to a forearm side plank on your right side with your left foot flat on the floor in front for support
  • Then roll the foam roller on the outer edge of your hip, to the side of your knee, before repeating on the left side
  • Do this for about 5 minutes altogether.

Exercise 6: Hip and thigh stretch

  • Place your left foot on the floor in front, and kneel on your right leg
  • Hold your right ankle and pull it towards your bottom until you feel the stretch in your quadriceps
  • Hold for 15 seconds.

Note: If you can’t do this – for example, if you suffer from arthritis – do the same thing standing on one leg and pull your other ankle toward your bottom.

Exercise 7: Leg lifts

  • Lie down flat on the floor and bend your left leg slightly with your foot on the floor
  • Slowly lift your straight leg 12 inches without bending the knee
  • Hold for five seconds, then lower slowly
  • Repeat two more times, before swapping legs.

Note: Don’t perform this exercise if you have osteoporosis or a back-compression fracture.


Exercise 8: Standing hamstring curls

  • Stand straight with your knees one to two inches apart
  • Slowly lift your right heel behind your body at 90 degrees
  • Keep your straight leg slightly bent to avoid locking it
  • Hold for five seconds then slowly lower to the floor
  • Repeat two more times, then swap legs.

What else can I do to prevent knee pain?

Here are five easy ways to manage and prevent knee pain:

  1. Low-impact activities, such as swimming, brisk walking, or cycling
  2. Resistance training to build your cartilage
  3. Maintaining a healthy weight – or losing weight if you’re overweight – can relieve knee pain and reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis
  4. Stretching and warming up before exercise, and cooling down afterwards
  5. Wearing shoes that fit well.

Staying active can help prevent knee pain

A regular routine of exercises that strengthen the knees can help you recover from knee problems as well as prevent them from developing in the future. For more information, read about our Joint Pain Programme.

Last updated Wednesday 8 January 2020