Here are some great exercises for knee strengthening.
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
1. Quadriceps Set: Sit on the edge of a chair or lie down with your knee straight. Tighten the muscle on top of your thigh by straightening your knee as much as you can. Place your hand on top of your thigh to feel the muscle tighten. Hold the muscle tight for a count of 5. Relax and repeat 5-10 times. Try to do the exercise with each leg several times throughout the day.
2. Straight Leg Raise: Lie flat on your back on either a bed or on the floor. Bend one knee, placing your foot flat on the bed. (This helps to stabilize your pelvis and protects your lower back.) Straighten the other knee. Tighten the muscle on the top of the thigh of the straight leg and slowly raise the entire leg 12 to 18 inches off the bed. Slowly lower the leg and relax.This exercise should only be done if you can keep the small of your back pressed against the bed with the abdominal muscles gently tightened. Work with this exercise until you can do it 10 times, and then progress by eventually doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a 1-2 minute rest between sets. This will help you to improve the strength. Repeat with the other leg. Remember to bend the opposite knee, placing the foot flat on the bed. This exercise is isometric at the knee, but not at the hip.
3. Hamstring Set: Lie on your back resting your heel on the bed, or sit at the edge of your chair, resting your heel on the floor. Bend the knee slightly. Dig your heel down into the bed or the floor squeezing it toward you, but don’t allow it to move. You should be able to feel the muscles on the back of your thigh tightening. Hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5-10 times with each leg several times throughout the day. Be sure to breathe.
4. Seated Combination Quadriceps/Hamstring Set: Seated in your chair, cross your right ankle over your left. Your left foot is flat on the floor. Push back with your right ankle against your left. You can feel the muscle on the back of your right thigh tighten. Add a forward press with the left ankle against the right, and you will feel the muscle on the top of your left thigh tighten as well. Hold for a count of 5. Be sure to breathe. Repeat several times, and then switch legs. Avoid this exercise if it aggravates any of your knee pain.
5. Short Arc Quadriceps: Although this exercise is not completely isometric, it is often tolerated well when the knee is painful because the knee is exercised only in a small part of its range of motion. Lie on your back, and put a 1-2 pound coffee can or a rolled up towel bolster measuring 3 to 6 inches in diameter under your knee. Straighten the knee. You will feel your knee pushing down into the bolster as your heel lifts up and the quadriceps muscle on the front of your thigh tightens. Hold for a count of 5. Relax. Repeat several times with each leg.
Starting position for the following standing exercises:
Stand with good posture, holding onto the back of a sturdy chair or the edge of your kitchen sink, using it for balance as necessary.
Standing Knee Stretches
When stretching, move slowly without bouncing. Stretches should not be painful.
1. Hamstring Stretch: Rest your right heel on the floor in front of you, knee straight, pulling your toes up. Bend left knee slightly and reach back with your hips, bending at the hip joints. Keep your back straight. Hold for a few seconds. You will feel a stretch behind your right thigh. Repeat several times with each leg.
2. Calf Stretch (Gastrocnemius Muscle): Place one foot on the floor a large step back from the other. With both feet facing forward and both heels on the floor, bend the forward knee so it is directly over the ankle, keeping the back leg straight. You will feel a stretch in the calf muscle of the back leg. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat several times with each leg.
3. Calf Stretch (Soleus Muscle): Place one foot a small step behind the other, and shift your weight to the back leg. Sink straight down, bending both knees You will feel a stretch in the lower part of the calf of the back leg, just above the heel.
1. Standing Hamstring Strengthener: When you first begin this exercise, the muscle on the back of your thigh may cramp. Do the Hamstring Stretch before and after the exercise to help prevent muscle cramping. Bend one knee slowly, and lift your heel toward your buttock. Bend the knee only slightly to begin with to help prevent cramping. Return to the starting position and repeat several times with each leg. For best results, do not allow the hip to bend.
2. Standing Quadriceps Strengthener: Slowly bend both knees into a shallow squat, staying in your comfort range. Keep your pelvis tucked under and your back upright and straight. Feel the thigh muscles working. As you slowly stand back up, squeeze the buttocks and tighten the muscles on the front of the thighs. Do a few of these several times each day to strengthen the muscles that help you to stand up from a chair and go up steps.
3. Advanced Quadriceps Strengthener with Weight Shift: Start with your weight shifted to your right foot with your left toe on the floor, knees straight. Now bend your knees, doing a knee dip, and as you straighten your knees shift the weight to the left foot and the right toe. Repeat several times.