Knee Strengthening Exercises – My Top 10

I feel like everyone and their dog has knee issues these days – myself included. So I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of exercises that you can do that won’t put a lot of stress on your knees AND that you can do right from your living room.

It is so important to keep your knees strong – this will help you avoid injury, and also manage any existing pain that you may have. In order to do this you must strengthen all the muscles surrounding your knees in a BALANCED way. There’s no use in having extra strong quads if your hamstrings are weak, this creates an imbalance which is likely to lead to even more pain. The following exercises will strengthen all the muscles of the leg to help keep your knee nice and sturdy:

Glute Bridges

Strengthens: Gluteal muscles, hamstrings, lower back

Why do I love it: The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body and acts to keep our torso in the erect position. This helps keep our backs pain-free, our hips in line, and therefore keeps our knees in a stable, healthy position. Glute bridges help strength the gluteal muscles to help keep our postures picture perfect.

How to perform:

Step #1: Lay on your back and place your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart
Step #2: Push through your heels, squeeze your glutes, hamstrings, and core to bring your hips up off the ground

Prone Leg Raises

Strengthens: Gluteal muscles, hamstrings, lower back/core

Why do I love it: Not only does it help strengthen your gluteal muscles which are important for posture, but it helps strengthen your lower abdominal muscles as well to further help improve your posture – thus taking stress off of your knees.

How to perform:

Step #1: Lay on your stomach on a flat surface, legs straight
Step #2: Focus on flexing only your glute muscles to bring your straightened leg off of the ground – hold for 3 at the “top” of the movement

Single Leg Glute Bridge

Strengthens: Gluteal muscles, hamstrings, lower back

Why do I love it: Very similar to the Glute Bridge (see above) except this movement is slightly more challenging due to it being performed on one leg. This challenges all the stabilizer muscles around your hips and knees – without applying pressure to the knees. Strengthening these stabilizer muscles will aid in improving your knee function and balance.

How to perform:

Step #1: Lay on your back like the glute bridge, with just one foot on the ground
Step #2: Push through the planted foot, using your glutes and hamstrings to get your hips off the ground

Hamstring Curls

Strengthens: Hamstrings

Why do I love it: This movement strengthens your hamstrings which directly affect the movement and stabilization of your knee. Strong hamstrings means that flexing (bending) your knee will become easier, so tasks like climbing the stairs and sitting down will take less of a toll on you.

How to perform:

Step #1: Lay on your stomach on a flat surface, legs straight
Step #2: Flex your hamstrings to bend your knees and bring your feet up to your bum (or as far as you can get them)

Calf Raises

Strengthens: Calves, quadriceps

Why do I love it: Many people neglect their calves in a training program (myself included) – almost like they forget that the calves are a part of the leg. Strong calves are just as important as strong quads and hamstrings as they are attached around the knee. Our calf muscles help keep us standing, help us walk, and move our feet around. So, when they are strong our knee doesn’t take the brunt of trying to balance the body.

How to perform: For this you can stand on the flat ground, or a step-like surface depending on how advanced you want to make the exercise – here I have pictured the step version.

Step #1: Stand straight, use a wall for support if you need too
Step #2: Flex your calves to bring your heels off the ground

Side Leg Raises

Strengthens: Medial glutes

Why do I love it: An easy to perform exercise that strengthens your medial glutes (side of hips/bum). Not only helps keep you balanced, but also helps give you that curvy look in your hips.

How to perform:

Step #1: Choose a flat surface and lay on your side with your legs straight and stacked on top of one another
Step #2: Flex your upper thighs and muscles surrounding the hips on the top leg to lift your leg straight up

Chair Squats

Strengthens: Quadriceps, gluteal muscles

Why do I love it: Regular squats can cause damage to your knees if performed incorrectly, and if you are already having knee issues, squats can make the pain worse. This is why I love chair squats as they mean that you don’t have to go as low as a regular squat, and the chair provides support if needed. I love this exercise because the strength you gain from it will be transferred into real life.

How to perform: For this you will need a bench, chair, couch, or anything that comes lower than your hips but higher than your knees. Try not to relax your muscles when you get to the chair (no sitting!!), you want to stay tight the whole movement.

Step #1: Place your chair behind your legs. Stand with your feet just a little wider than should width, toes pointed out slightly
Step #2: Initiate the squat movement by pushing your hips back towards the chair. Simultaneously lower your bum down towards the chair – pause and hover when you get there

Step #3: To stand back up, push through your heels and squeeze your gluten


Strengthens: Quadriceps, gluteal muscles

Why do I love it: This exercise can be as easy or advanced as you like, any age or fitness level can perform this exercise to some degree. They’re a great way to strengthen your quadriceps and glute muscles, and again, this movement can be transferred into real life, i.e. climbing stairs or getting on the bus.

How to perform: This exercise requires you to simply step onto the box with one leg, and then lower your body back down using the same leg. Use a wall if you need some support.

Step #1: Find yourself a set of stairs or a stable box that is at a comfortable stepping height for you
Step #2: Really push through your heels and squeeze your glutes and quads to push your body up the stairs

Clam Shells

Strengthens: Medial glutes

Why do I love it: Similar to the side leg raises, this exercise targets the medial glutes to help keep you balanced and your hips strong. Easy to perform – could even do it while you’re watcing TV!

How to perform:

Ste[ #1: Start in the same position that you were in the side leg raises, except this time with your knees bent
Step #2: Keep your feet together, lift your top knee up by flexing your glutes – mimicking a clamshell (hence the name)

Wall Sit

Strengthens: Quadriceps, gluteal muscles, core, calves, hamstrings

Why do I love it: This is the ultimate full body exercise for beginners; this isometric hold can be made as hard or as easy as you like. It helps strengthen all the stabilizer muscles around the knees, ankles, and hips, as well as engage your abdominal muscles for a strong core.

How to perform:

Find yourself a wall or something stable enough for you to lean against. Place your back against the wall and slide down so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Your thighs should be parallel with the ground

Well, there you have it, my top 10 leg strengthening exercises that won’t agitate your knee pain any further. Best part is that you can do them right from your living room in your pj’s.

Start by doing 10 reps per exercise and gradually increase reps over time. To make these even more difficult try using weights or bands to increase the resistance.

Let me know if you give any of these a go! What exercise posts would you like to see in the future? Comment below!

For exercises to help reduce back pain, see my previous post

Until next time