Knee strength is crucial for playing sports, avoiding injury, and going about your day-to-day life pain-free and with full mobility. So, here’s our breakdown of how to strengthen your knees, including key muscle groups, exercises, diet, and other recommendations.
The main muscle groups responsible for your knee’s strength and mobility include:
- Quadriceps. The quads are 4 muscles on the front and back of the thigh, running from the top of the femur and joining near the knee. They are responsible for straightening the knee and helping to bend the hip.
- Hamstrings. They consist of 3 muscles on the back of your thighs and help bend the knee and extend the hip. Your hamstrings give you strength for jumping and are crucial in joint stabilisation as they protect the collateral and cruciate ligaments.
- Glutes. While they don’t touch the knee joint, they play an important role in knee stability as they support the quads and hamstrings.
- Calves. These 2 muscles at the back of your lower leg aren’t a major factor in knee strength and movement, but they do support the muscles that are.
- Popliteus. This small muscle at the back of your knee helps stabilise the joint.
Now that you know the muscles responsible for knee strength and movement, let’s get on with how to make them stronger. In terms of exercises, there are a few that specifically target key muscle groups. And while they’re pretty gentle, if you’ve recently hurt your knee, we would recommend doing them in a brace. Our GenuTrain Knee Brace, for example, will support the joint through movement while still allowing full range of motion.
You can learn more about knee injuries and the best braces for them in our injury hub: Knee Injuries - Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
GenuTrain Knee Brace
As the name might suggest, the quad set activates your quads. To do this exercise, you’ll need to:
- Lay on your back on your bed with your legs straight
- Place a rolled-up bath towel behind your knees.
- Push the backs of your knees against the towel, making sure you push down with the kneecap while contracting your quads
- Hold the push for 5 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 10 - 15 times
Make sure you only push down as much as is comfortable. You should not feel pain in the knee joint during this exercise. If you do, ease up on the push.
This exercise targets the quads and glutes.
- Stand with your hands, shoulders, back, and hips pressed against a wall. Alternatively, put an exercise ball between your back and the wall and cross your arms over your chest.
- Place your knees hip-width apart.
- Your feet should be 50-60 cm from the wall (depending on your height). You can check if the distance is right by sliding down the wall until your hips are at the same height as your knees. If your knees are at a 90-degree angle, you're good to go. If not, adjust accordingly.
- Slide down the wall slowly until your body is just at a normal sitting position. You can stop a little higher if you feel a pang in your knee or stop a little lower for a more intense squat.
- Hold for 5 seconds.
- Slide back up, concentrating on using your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Repeat 10-15 times
If you feel pain in your knee joint during the squat, you may need to wear a brace or work on strengthening your muscles with gentler exercises like the leg lift first.
Straight leg raise
During this exercise, you should feel your hips, quads, and abs activating.
- Lay on your back on the floor
- Bend one leg at a 90-degree angle, placing your foot firmly on the floor
- Keep your other leg straight
- Contract the quads in your straight leg for stability and raise it 10-15 cm off the floor
- Hold for 3-5 secs
- Exhale, gently lowering your leg back to the floor
- Do 10 reps per leg.
This exercise is excellent at working the glutes and hamstrings.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Tighten your abs and pelvic floor muscles
- Press your weight into your feet and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your upper back to your knees
- Tighten your glutes and slowly lower your hips
- Repeat for 15-20 reps
You should feel this exercise working your hamstrings, glutes, and popliteus.
- Stand straight with your knees just a couple of centimetres apart.
- For stability, you can do this exercise while holding onto a wall or the back of a chair.
- Bend one knee behind your body, lifting your heel off the floor and bringing it almost to the glutes. Make sure your knees remain aligned throughout
- Hold your bent leg up for 5 seconds, then slowly lower it to the floor.
- Repeat twice and do the same for the other leg
Exercise is crucial for building muscle strength. But what you eat provides the necessary building blocks your knee muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage need to keep the joint strong and mobile. So, make sure to eat:
- Omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in overall joint health. You’ll find it in nuts, fish, seeds, and olive oil.
- Magnesium, which helps muscles contract and relax as normal. Eat plenty of spinach, whole grains, seeds, legumes, and nuts.
- Protein, which is necessary for building muscle strength. Meat, eggs, nuts, and beans are all good sources.
- And Vitamin C, which is essential in the reproduction of collagen, a fundamental building block of cartilage, tendons, and muscles. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
There are also a few other things to consider when building your knee strength.
- Don’t rush into strength building. In the short term, you can exhaust your muscles, leading to them tensing up or just not activating properly. And in the long term, you may wear out your tendons and ligaments, leading to inflammation or even minor tears. You can learn more about knee ligament injuries here: Which Knee Brace is Best for a Ligament Injury?
- On that note, monitor your pain levels; you shouldn’t push your knee joints to the point of pain.
- We advise wearing a performance knee brace like the Sports Knee Support Brace for added support when playing more extreme sports.
- And again, if you’ve suffered a knee injury or have an advanced stage of arthritis, we’d strongly recommend speaking to your GP or Physio before starting any exercise regimen. While most of the knee exercises we've listed are relatively gentle and safe on the joints, we don’t want you to risk re-injury.
Sports Knee Support
TO SUM UP
Diet, exercise, and proper support are vital in strengthening your knee and keeping it mobile. But not all knee strengthening exercises are made equal, and not all will suit your condition. So, start slow, check your discomfort, and brace when necessary.
Want a knee brace to support you through your workout? See our full collection here: Knee Supports. You can use our brace selector tool to filter the results according to your injury or condition.
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.
Do you have private health? Most private health extras will cover Bauerfeind Products, check to see if yours is included. Bauerfeind Private Health Insurance Inquiry.