Strengthening exercises for your knees

Expert reviewer, Lucy Rath, Bupa Senior Physiotherapist
Next review due January 2023

Doing regular exercise of any type will always bring about benefit. Keeping your knees and surrounding muscles strong can help reduce stiffness, prevent injury in the first place and aid recovery of a current injury.

Below is a series of exercises you can try at the gym or in the comfort of your own home, to help keep your knees strong.

Remember, start slowly and only do as much as you can manage without feeling any pain. These exercises aren't a replacement for expert advice, so please speak to your doctor or physiotherapist if you aren’t sure.

A woman jumping as she exercises

Bodyweight squat

Squats are one of the best exercises to strengthen your knees. Squats also help to strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes.

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forwards.
  • With your back straight, chest out and shoulders back and down, slowly squat downwards.
  • Don’t let your knees move in towards each other.
  • Squat downwards as far as you comfortably can, then straighten your legs to return to standing.
  • Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions.

Single-leg squat

Single-leg squats help to strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. Focusing on one leg at a time can help with any imbalances you have between legs.

  • Stand on one foot with your toes facing forwards, use your other leg for gentle balance.
  • Lower your body by bending your knee. Keep your knee cap in line with your second toe throughout – try not to move it from side-to-side.
  • Go as low as you can without any pain, then straighten your legs to return to standing.
  • Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.

Stabilisation lunge

Stabilisation lunges help to strengthen your quadriceps, as well as your glutes, hamstrings, calves and core muscles. They also help you learn how to control your knee.

  • Stand with your legs apart, one forwards and one back.
  • Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle with your back knee just above the floor, keeping your front knee stable and in line with your foot.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.

Glute bridge

The glute bridge helps to strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. It will also help you to develop your core strength and stability.

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent at about 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Slowly lift your bottom up by squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your knees in line with your feet.
  • Try not to arch your back and slowly lower your back down.
  • Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions.

Sitting knee extension

Sitting knee extensions help to strengthen your quadriceps and stabilise your knee.

  • Sit on the floor with one knee straight and the other at about 90 degrees.
  • Place a rolled-up towel under your straight knee for support.
  • Keeping your toes pointing upwards, clench your quadriceps and push down on to the towel so your knee straightens and heel lifts from the floor. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower.
  • Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.

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Related information

    • Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers' report. GOV.UK., published 7 September 2019
    • Acute knee injuries: Chapter 35. Bruker & Khan's Clinical Sports Medicine (vol 1. 5th ed, online)., published 2017
    • Knee pain. MSD Manuals., last reviewed March 2018
    • Knee conditioning program. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons., last reviewed October 2018
    • Personal communication. Lucy Rath, Senior Physiotherapist, Bupa, 15 January 2020
  • Reviewed by Alice Windsor, Specialist Health Editor, Bupa Health Content Team, January 2020
    Expert reviewer, Lucy Rath, Senior Physiotherapist, Bupa
    Next review due January 2023