5 Exercises To Help/Prevent Knee Pain

Sports and Fitness Training

Knee pain is one of the most common, and annoying, injury people complain about when they train. You could have big goals. You may want to run a 5k, dunk a basketball, keep up with your kids during play time outside, or you’re coming off ACL/meniscus surgery and you don’t have confidence in that knee yet (which is way more common than it should be. That’s a different article in itself). You do all the training, you stay active, go on your walks, but your knees are killing you every time you take a step. If this is the case, then this article will be perfect for you as I dive into 5 exercises (minimal equipment required) that will help almost immediately for those stubborn knees.

#1 Banded Terminal Knee Extensions (TKEs)

Banded TKEs are a super low hanging fruit exercise that has a low learning curve to execute it properly. What this exercise does is target your VMO (tear drop muscle in your quad) and actively stimulates it to help with surrounding knee pain. It’s not a complicated movement and could be done for 15-20 reps as a warmup before your workout for the day. You can also add these in during sets of squat/deadlift during rest periods to add extra stimulus to that muscle to keep those knees feeling as good as new. Below is a video demoing the exercise but I’ll explain in words to give some background. All you’re going to need is a band and a place to put that band. Once you have the band (the resistance doesn’t matter that much) wrap it around an immovable object and then place it behind your knee. While you’re facing the immovable object the next step is to press your heel into the ground, squeezing your quad then coming back to your starting position.

#2 Split Squat Iso Holds

The split squat iso hold is probably the simplest, but one of the hardest, exercises you can do to help improve your knee pain. Here we are strengthening our quadricep, glute, and hip flexors all at the same time. All you need is a timer, some space, and some mental toughness to hold this position for the given time. Starting off work up to multiple sets of :30 seconds, but the end goal is to be able to perform this exercise for 2-5min per side. Good luck, this one burns quite a bit.

#3 Single Leg Hamstring Bridge Iso Hold

Like the split squat, this is also a fun one. Here we are targeting the lengthened position of the hamstring and strengthening the muscles behind your knee. You’re going to start on your back, extend one leg out, drive your heel into the ground and push your hips up as high as you can. Start with sets of 10-15 seconds a leg then progress to sets of 45-60 each. If the single leg variation is too hard to start you can regress to two legs at the same time. Be patient, you’ll get really good at these eventually.

#4 Spanish Squat Iso

The Spanish Squat is a very simple exercise that can be done pretty much anywhere and the amount of quad stimulus you get is amazing. Play around with squat depth and find a comfortable position to start, but work around your pain and stay in that squat for sets of ~30seconds. If you do not have a band a simple wall sit will do the trick, but I personally think the Spanish Squat is a better option. Up to you and what you have access to of course.

#5 Single Leg Glute Bridge

This is an amazing exercise that can be done loaded or unloaded at either the beginning or end of your workouts. This exercise is similar to the hamstring bridge, but the main focus is to target your glute max, glute med, and low back . If the single leg variation is too difficult you can regress to two legs to start, but sets of 10-20 each leg at bodyweight would be a good entry point to becoming really good at this movement. When you feel comfortable start adding weight for sets of 6-12 to really see amazing strength and hypertrophy gains.

If you made it this far remember to stay patient and realize you won’t be cured of all your knee pain overnight. Stay the course, do things that are mostly pain free, and try out these exercises 1-3x per week and see how much progress can be made. Any questions feel free to reach out or do some more research on your own.

Brett Hart, Head Coach