8 Great Knee Exercises and Stretches

Stretch and Strengthening for the knee

Aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming, and bicycling, is a key part of any well-rounded exercise program. But it’s also important to build your muscle strength and to stay flexible with stretching exercises, tai chi, or yoga. The following muscle-strengthening and stretching exercises, from the Arthritis Foundation and the National Institute on Aging, are a great place to start.

Knee Exercise #1: Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend one knee, placing the bottom of the foot against the inside of the other leg. Let the bent knee drop toward the floor. Bend forward from the hips and reach toward the ankle of your outstretched leg. Go only as far as is comfortable. Keep your chest straight; don’t round your upper back or neck. Hold the stretch and relax into it. Then stretch the other leg.

Knee Exercise #2: Quadriceps Stretch

While standing, place your right hand on the wall or the back of a chair for support. Bend your left leg behind you, and grab it just above the ankle with your left hand. Pull the ankle backward toward your buttocks. Tighten your tummy and tuck your buttocks in. Hold the stretch for a moment, then release and stretch the other leg.

Knee Exercise #3: Forward Bend

Stand with your feet a few inches apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward from the waist and reach for your toes. Go only as far as is comfortable. Let your arms hang loosely. Hold the stretch for five slow breaths, then slowly come back up. Try to feel yourself unrolling one vertebra at a time until you’re standing straight again.

Knee Exercise #4: Chair Squat

Stand with your feet facing forward, about shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms over your head. Squat as if you were going to sit down. At the same time, move your arms halfway down. Make sure your feet are facing forward, knees over ankles. Hold the position for several seconds. This exercise can also be done with your arms by your sides.

Knee Exercise #5: Calf Raise

Place your hands on a chair or table for support. Stand on your right leg and wrap your left foot around your right ankle. Rise up and down on the ball of your right foot several times. Keep your abdomen and buttocks tight as you do this. Then switch legs.

Knee Exercise #6: Quadriceps Lift

Sit up straight in a chair, both feet on the floor, and tighten your abdomen. Extend one leg in front of you, with your toes pointing upward. Raise your thigh off the chair slightly. Lower your thigh and repeat. Then switch and repeat with the other leg.

Knee Exercise #7: Side Leg Raise

Stand with your hands on the back of a chair with your feet slightly apart. Slowly raise your right leg to the side. Make sure your left knee is slightly bent and your back is straight. Keep right leg raised for one second. Lower the leg, then repeat 10 to 15 times. Now switch legs and do 10 to 15 side raises with your left leg. Next, switch back to your right leg and do 10 to 15 raises. Finish by doing another 10 to 15 raises with your left leg.

Knee Exercise #8: Knee Curl

Stand and hold onto the back of a chair. Lift your right leg straight out behind you, without pointing your toes. Bring your heel toward your buttocks as far as you can by bending your knee. Don’t move your hips, and keep the leg you’re standing on slightly bent. Hold for one second, then lower to the floor. Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times. Switch legs and do 10 to 15 curls with the left leg. Then perform another 10 to 15 curls with your right leg. Finish by doing 10 to 15 curls with your left leg.

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