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Health and Fitness News

Weak in the Knees?

Get strong, healthy knees with these joint-friendly, knee-strengthening exercises.

Walking, sitting, and standing up—no matter what you’re doing, you need your knees. And when you suffer from knee stiffness or pain, your quality of life is immediately impacted. Maybe it’s extra weight you carry around that’s been hard on your knees or perhaps you have arthritis or suffered a knee injury. Though you may resist the idea of exercise because you’re worried about how your knees will handle it, strengthening the muscles surrounding your knees is one of the best ways to get them strong, flexible, and healthy again.

When you’re ready for stronger knees, talk with your physician and then incorporate these five knee exercises into your workout routine.

1. Calf Raises

Your calf muscle is connected to the hamstring muscle behind the knee. By strengthening your calves, you help prevent a muscle imbalance with your hamstring and bring stability to your knee. Stand next to a chair or wall for support, slowly raise your heels up off the floor as high as you can, and then lower them to the ground. Do three sets of 10 repetitions each.

For a challenge, raise your bodyweight on one foot or stand on the edge of a step with your heels dropping down off the step. To strengthen different parts of your calves, try out calf raises with your toes pointed either inward or outward.

2. Leg Raises

To strengthen your quadriceps, the muscle along the front of your thigh, do straight leg raises. (Note: If you have back problems, skip this one.) To get started, lie on your back on a flat surface. Bend your right knee so your right foot is flat on the ground. Keep your left leg straight and slowly raise it 6 to 12 inches. Pause and lower your leg back to the floor. Do three sets of 10 raises, and then switch legs.

3. Hamstring Curls

Strong hamstrings are important for strong knees. To build the muscle on the back of your thighs, perform hamstring curls. Lie on your stomach on a flat surface or stand up straight and hold onto a chair. One at a time, bring your heels toward your bottom, hold for a second, and then straighten your leg. Do three sets of 10 on each leg.

4. Squats

Squats are exercises that strengthen the knees in multiple ways. Working the hamstrings, quadriceps, and bottom, there are many variations to the squat. You may find using a chair easier than a traditional squat. Stand in front of a chair with your feet placed shoulder-width apart and cross your arms across your chest. Now, keep your back straight, your abs engaged, and sit back until your backside barely touches the chair. Pause and slowly stand back up.

Wall squats are an option for people who have trouble keeping their back straight. For these, lean your back against a wall, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and bend your knees to a maximum of 90-degrees. Hold for several seconds and then stand back up. Repeat and try to hold the position for longer each time.

5. Side Leg Raises

To work the muscles on the outer side of your hips, go with side-lying leg raises. For these, you’ll lie on your side and bend your lower knee. From this position, slowly raise your upper leg, careful to keep it straight, until it makes a 45-degree angle with the floor. Pause and slowly lower it back to the floor. Perform 10 raises and then switch legs. Do three total sets.