Knee Pain Exercises

Exercises for Knee Strength and Flexibility

When you suffer from knee osteoarthritis (OA), regular exercise is essential to stretch and strengthen your muscles. As a consequence, you are providing your knees the support and reducing the stress around the joints. The following exercises can be performed at least 2 to 3 times a week. Try them after your daily walk or any other aerobic exercise where your legs are warmed up.

Long Arc Quads

Strengthens the inner thigh muscle to balance the pull on the knee joint from the outer thigh, which is often stronger

  1. Sit on a chair and straighten one leg.
  2. Hold for one minute.
  3. Bend your knee to lower that leg about halfway to the floor (a 45-degree angle).
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Return to starting position and rest for one minute.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Work up to four repetitions for each leg.

Straight-Leg Raises

Knee Pain Exercises

Strengthens the quadriceps muscles to help support the knee joint. Start this exercise using 1 lb. ankle weights.

  1. Sit in a chair with one leg extended, resting your foot on a second chair or bench. (Your leg should be straight.)
  2. Lift that foot a few inches while keeping your leg straight.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds. Return to resting position for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Work up to three minutes of lifting for each leg.
  6. Advance by adding ankle weights (in ½ lb. increments)

Lying Leg Lift

Knee Pain Exercises

Strengthens quadriceps and hip flexors. Complements the walking motion by working muscles in opposition that may be under used, such as the smaller quadriceps muscles of the thigh.

  1. Lie on your back with right leg straight and extended; and left knee is bent, with left foot flat on floor.
  2. Contract the right thigh muscles to straighten (don’t lock) the knee.
  3. Slowly raise your right leg to your left knee level. Then lower your leg.
  4. Repeat 8–12 times, working up to 2 sets on each side.
  5. To advance: Begin holding to a 3–5 count in the up position.

Wall Sit or Sit to Stand

Knee Pain Exercises

Strengthens hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and abdominal muscles. A lower-intensity alternative to squats and lunges.

  1. Stand with your back and head against a wall. Look straight ahead. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and 6 to 8 inches from the wall. Relax your shoulders and tighten your stomach muscles.
  2. Slowly slide straight down until you feel stretch in the front of your thighs. Hold for 30 seconds. Slowly slide back up.


Knee Pain Exercises

Strengthens gluts, hamstrings, and trunk, including lower back and abs.

  1. Lay on your back, with arms by your side, palms up. Place your feet flat on the floor with knees bent.
  2. Use abdominal and gluteal (buttocks) muscles, slowly lift trunk and hips off floor with a smooth, controlled motion.
  3. Squeeze buttocks at the top, then slowly lower. (Keep pressure on the shoulders, not on the head, and do not push with the hands.)
  4. If you feel cramping in the hamstrings, you’ll know they’re working too hard; lower slightly to relieve that tightening.
  5. Repeat 8–12 times, working up to two sets.

Calf Stretch

Knee Pain Exercises

Stand about a foot from a wall (or other solid object) and place your hands on the wall at shoulder-height, shoulder-width apart.

  1. Stand with your arms braced against against a wall, both feet pointing straight ahead. Place your left/right foot several inches behind the other.
  2. Bend your front leg. Keep both heels on the floor and your back leg straight. You should feel a slight pull in your calf. Hold for 30 seconfs. Bend your back leg and hold for 30 seconds


  • Don’t lift your back heel
  • Don’t arch your back

Quadriceps Stretch

Knee Pain Exercises

  1. Stand an arm’s length from a wall. Look straight ahead.
  2. Place your left/right hand against the wall. With your other hand, grasp the ankle of the foot on the same side. Gently pull your heel to your buttocks.
  3. When you feel a mild stretch in your thigh, hold for 30 seconds.

Toe Raises

Knee Pain Exercises

  1. Stand with both feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. If you need support, steady yourself with your hand on a ledge, wall or table.
  2. Raise both heels so you’re standing on your toes. Hold for 30 seconds. Slowly lower your heels to the floor.
  3. As you become stronger, stand on one foot at a time and raise that heel off the floor.

Step Ups or Marching in Place on a solid surface

Knee Pain Exercises

  1. Stand with one foot on a 4-inch to 6-inch support (such as a block of wood) and the other foot flat on the floor.
  2. Shift your weight onto the foot on the block, straightening that knee, and raise your other foot off the floor. Then slowly lower the foot until only the heel touches the floor.

Leg Lunge

Knee Pain Exercises

  1. Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. With your left/right foot, step out and lower yourself into a comfortable position. Keep your back straigtht and your feet pointing straight ahead. As you step, the heel of the other foot lifts off  the floor. Return smoothly to your starting position.


  • Don’t lunge to far that your rear knee touches the floor
  • Don’t let your forward knee go past your toes.

Hamstring Stretch

Knee Pain Exercises

  1. Sit on the floor with one leg out straight.
  2. Bend the other leg at the knee and press the sole of that foot against your opposite inner thigh.
  3. Bend at the waist keeping your back straight and touch the toes of your extended leg. (If you can not touch your toes reach as far as comfortable.)
  4. Hold 20 seconds, relax. Then stretch the other leg.