8 Best Exercises to Rehab Your Knee

Knee Rehab Exercises

What are the best exercises to reduce knee pain and build back strength?

Knee injuries are one of the most commonly seen sports injuries. 90% of runners report suffering from knee pain at some point in their lives. The knee is a complex structure comprising of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons which all work together to allow the leg to move smoothly.

Injuries affecting any one part of this specialised structure can have a major impact on our ability to run or engage in other types of physical activity.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

A very common reason for knee pain is a condition known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) which causes pain on the outside of the knee. This injury occurs due to tightness in the ITB (a thick tendon which runs along the outside of the thigh from hip to shin), weakness in muscles such as gluteus medius and tensor fascia latae (which stabilises and moves the knee) and tightness in the fascia lata (connective tissue which covers the thigh).

The best exercises to help manage ITBS are ones that strengthen muscles around the hip, especially gluteus medius. It is important to start by doing these exercises regularly with no load or resistance.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Another common cause of knee pain is patellofemoral pain syndrome. In this condition, the kneecap becomes irritated because of a misalignment between the patella and the groove it moves within in the thigh bone. This can be caused by tightness in muscles that attach to or cover the knee cap such as iliopsoas and rectus femoris.

Exercises to Rehab Your Knee

Knee exercises are important for helping you avoid injuries by keeping your knee strong, allowing it to better handle stress and impact during exercise and daily activities. Make sure to check with a doctor before starting any workout program or increasing exercise intensity.

The following activities will help loosen up your calf muscles, hamstrings and glutes which can become tight from lack of use or overuse. As you gradually add weight while performing the exercises, it is important not to increase loads too much as this can cause a flare-up of symptoms.

1. The Standing Hip Abduction

This exercise involves standing on one foot and swinging the other leg out to the side. Start by doing this exercise without any added weight and add a resistance band around your ankle when you are ready.

2. The Clam Shell

For this exercise, lay on your side on the floor with your legs bent and your feet stacked in line with your buttocks. Slowly open your knees apart and close again like in a clam shell motion. To ensure that you’re using correct form, make sure that your knees remain in front of your body and your hips and shoulders stay stacked.

3. The 45-Degree Bridge

To perform this exercise, lie on your back with knees bent and place a resistance band around both feet. Lift hips off the floor until body forms a diagonal line from shoulders to knees. Ensure feet remain apart throughout the exercise and do not allow heels to come off the floor.

4. The Glute Bridge

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips so that they are in line with your knees and shoulders. Squeeze your glutes at the top of this movement and return back down to starting position slowly and under control. Increasing and decreasing speed will build strength more quickly than just maintaining a steady pace.

5. The Lateral Step-up

This exercise can be performed using either a short bench or plyometric box. Stand alongside the bench/box with your working (injured) leg placed on top and other leg hanging free. Make sure that you are balanced before stepping up onto the surface in front of you, then step back down carefully. This is an advanced exercise which should not be attempted without supervision from a trainer.

6. The Single Leg Bridge

Lie on your back with one knee bent and other leg extended straight out. Push through the heel of the foot that is bent to lift hips off floor, keep both glutes contracted throughout this movement. As hips reach their highest point, ensure shoulders, hip and knee make a straight line. Slowly return hips to the floor and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

7. The Step-down

Gradually build up ability to perform this exercise by starting with no resistance band, then progressing into one when you feel comfortable. Stand facing a step or bench that is about 12 inches high with your injured leg in front of the other leg. Keep your weight over the front leg and slowly lower yourself down by bending at the knee. Return back up using both legs and without locking out your knee at the top. Repeat 10 – 15 times depending on strength level.

8. The Single Leg Deadlift

This exercise works gluteus medius, hamstrings, calves and lower back. Stand with legs shoulder width apart and eyes looking forward throughout the exercise. Slowly bend at the hips and bring one foot behind you as you reach towards floor, ensuring that your knee remains central and does not roll in or out. Return back up to start position by pushing off of both feet equally and engaging gluteus medius on standing leg. Repeat 10 – 15 times and then switch to the other side.


Knee health is very important to daily function, making it important to know what you can do to maximize your strength and minimize risk of injury. Taking care to strengthen your muscles around the knee will help to decrease pain and increase stability.

It is important to remember that knee pain can be complex and it might not always be possible to rehab your knee yourself. If you are having any kind of discomfort, make sure you consult your doctor or physiotherapist before attempting an exercise program on your own. You don’t want to do anything that could potentially cause more damage.

Finally, taking preventative measures for knee pain is important, but it is even more crucial to know what you are doing if you have an existing injury. Not only should your exercises be focused on strengthening the muscles around your knee, but they will also need to take into account any specific activity involved when trying to recover from a knee injury.

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