How to strengthen a painful knee - Juice Daily
Photo: @lifeofaladybear Instagram

How to strengthen a painful knee

Knee pain is common and it’s one of the reasons (or excuses, we should say) for us not exercising regularly throughout the year.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association estimates 676,000 knee injuries occur in Australia every year. And 28% occur from sport alone, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It’s women suffering from knee aches and pains the most.

So, what’s triggering the epidemic of bad knees? Well, a bunch of things – beginning with our wardrobe, according to the experts.

“Poor shoe choice is a common one. If someone is a runner and doesn’t have good shoes, the repetitive motion done with poor support can be damaging,” says Veronica Wallington, personal trainer at P.E Dept in Potts Point.

And that pavement pounding isn’t so great either.

“Self-inflicted knee pain is a very common reality of overdoing it. Running can cause the most trouble – as great as it can feel, without the correct technique, the impact of the pavement can be very damaging to the knees,” says Pilates instructor Johanna Irwin.

A lack of form is also another problem when it comes to unsupervised workouts.

“Exercises like squats and lunges where the knees constantly come forward put a lot of pressure on the knee – and often don’t even hit the muscles you want it to,” says Wallington.

So what’s the best way to keep dodgy knees at bay? With a series of strengthening and corrective exercises. We’ve gathered top Sydney experts to give us the best rehabilitating exercises to get you back into gear.

“The following exercises will help strengthen the supporting muscles of the knee, to help stabilise the knee joint and allow for better function through various movements,” says Wallington.

“Before you begin, remember to focus on form, slow down the reps and think about the muscles you are working (i.e. glutes, hamstrings etc). Also practise single leg work so you can focus on isolating the strength of that leg without depending on the other to get it through the rep.”

Knee strengthening exercises

From the PT and physio expert – Matt Reid at Joe’s Basecamp

  1. Band distracted knee extension
  • Lying on the ground, anchor a resistance band around a pole and loop the ends around your right ankle (hooking band under ankle and crossing over top of foot).
  • Leave left leg lying flat on the ground.
  • Lengthen right leg straight out and then slowly bend to a 90 degree angle using resistance to strengthen the knee.
  • Continue the forwards and backwards motion for 10 reps then swap and repeat on left side.

Work out with Joe for free on Bodypass

2. VMO towel drill

  • Sit on the ground with legs out straight.
  • Roll up a towel and place underneath your knee joint.
  • Squeeze your leg straight, really focusing on squeezing the VMO (the muscle just above your knee cap, inside of your leg).
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds and slowly lower and repeat.

3. Clams

  • Lie on your side, hips stacked directly on top of each other, legs bent at 90 degrees.
  • Keeping your feet together, try to rotate the top knee away from the bottom knee, keeping hips stacked on top of each other.

4. Hip bridge

  • Lie flat on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees, feet flat.
  • Keeping your knees in line with your 3rd toes of each foot, push through your heels to raise your hips up high, creating a straight line between your knees, hips and shoulders.
  • Hold for two seconds, lower then repeat.

From the PT – Veronica Wallington at P.E. Dept

5. Single leg squats

  • Perform single leg squats by raising one foot off the ground and hovering it just off the ground in front of you.
  • Hold onto a TRX (or a pole if at home) to help keep you stable and provide a good range of movement.
  • Make sure just like a squat your weight is going backwards (into a seated position or lower) and squatting foot stays firmly on the ground.
  • Repeat for 12 reps each side for 2-3 rounds.

6. BOSU lunges with front foot elevated

  • With the front foot on the BOSU, start in lunge position and bring the back knee to the ground slowly.
  • Then lift back to the starting position, trying to keep the front foot firmly on the BOSU.
  • Repeat for 12 reps each side, for 2-3 rounds.

Workout with Veronica for free on Bodypass

7. Step ups

  • Make sure feet are facing directly forward and your full foot is on the box each time.
  • Aim to use strength (over momentum) to get you standing on the box (or a step if at home) and then be steady and controlled on the way down.
  • Progress to holding a dumbbell or weight in each hand as you step.
  • Stay on the one side for 12 reps then repeat for 12 reps on other side. Aim for 2-3 rounds.

From the Pilates instructor – Johanna Irwin at Johanna Irwin Pilates

8. Ball wall squat

  • Stand with your feet facing forward, hip width apart.
  • Place a fit ball between the wall and your lower lumbar.
  • Start by taking a deep inhale then as you exhale, connect through your core and slowly bend down into a squat.
  • Make sure your knees are not rolling in or out and are kept in line with your toes – don’t let them hinge forward past your toes.
  • Keep your spine long and lengthened.
  • Hold for an inhale and then exhale to lengthen the legs.
  • Repeat for 10 reps.

9.TheraBand supine extension

  • Lying on your back, bring one leg to a 90 degree angle and wrap a TheraBand (resistance band) around the arch of that foot.
  • The other leg should remain stationary and be bent with your foot on the floor (and in line with your hip).
  • Hold the TheraBand in both hands, bring your elbows in by your side, and bring your forearms to a 90 degree angle.
  • Start with an inhale, then as you exhale, extend the leg to a lengthened position working against the resistance.
  • Inhale and return the leg to your start position.
  • Do 10 reps on each side.

10. Adductor squeeze

  • Laying on your back, with both legs bent, hip-width apart – place a soft ball (the size of a rockmelon) between the knees.
  • Make sure the spine is in a neutral position (not pressing into the floor, and not overly arching).
  • Inhale, then as you exhale engage from the upper inner thighs, and squeeze knees into the ball.
  • Inhale to release, pushing legs back.
  • Repeat ten times.

Workout with Johanna for free on Bodypass

Sam Bailey

About the person who wrote this

Sam Bailey

Sam Bailey is a Sydney-based journalist whose passion for health and fitness and has seen her write across health titles including Womens Fitness, Womens Health, Body + Soul and Daily Mail Australia. In her down time you can find her sipping green smoothies, attempting complex yoga poses and soaking up vitamin D on Bondi beach.

Liked this? Read these!

Got something to say? Get it off your chest here

The Juice Daily is a Fairfax Media owned website