If you can tell whether it’s going to rain by the pain in your knees, you’re in good company. Knee discomfort is one of the most common forms of chronic pain among people of all ages. When done regularly, exercises that strengthen muscles that support the knee joints can significantly reduce pain.

There are several knee bends that can strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joints. However, it’s important to do exercises that align with your lifestyle and level of fitness so you don’t cause more pain. Isometric exercises, stretches, balance exercises, and exercises for the hip, foot and ankle work best.

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Ditch the Deep Knee Bends

It’s important to avoid exercises that increase your knee pain and could cause a knee injury. For example, certain squats, stair exercises, and high-impact activities may be painful, especially if you have a history of arthritis. This is because it can cause a lot of wear and tear on the cartilage in your knees.

Focus on exercises that involve knee bends to strengthen the quadriceps (muscles in the front of the thighs) and hamstrings (muscles in the backs of the thighs). The stronger these muscles become, the better they can reduce strain around your knee and provide better shock absorption.

Exercises with Knee Bends to Try at Home

Before attempting any new exercise routine, be sure to check with your healthcare provider. Doing so can help you avoid a knee injury. After you check with your provider, we recommend the following low-impact exercises:

Mini or Partial Squats with a Chair or at a Counter

This exercise strengthens your quadriceps, which help the knee extend.

Hold onto a chair or stable surface in a standing position, keep your knees about shoulder width apart and pointed forward, bend your hips and knees as if sitting down onto a chair, and then slowly stand back up. Repeat 10-12 times.

Quad Sets

This simple exercise may be done on the floor with or without a pillow under your knee. Sit with your legs out in front of you and your knees completely straight. You can lean against a wall or back on your hands if you find it difficult to sit up by yourself. Focus on contracting your quadriceps and holding them as tight as possible for several seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times. Repeat several times a day if your knees actively ache.

Straight Leg Raises

In the same starting position as the quad sets, sit with your right leg (do one at a time) straight in front of you with your toes pulled towards the knee. (If this is too difficult, you may also do these lying on your back to start.) Keep your left leg bent with your foot on the floor. Contract your quads on your right leg, lift your foot about 12 inches off the ground, and hold it up for five seconds. Slowly lower it back down and repeat 10 times. Switch legs.

Standing Hamstring Curls

For your hamstrings—the muscles at the back of your thigh below your buttocks—try this easy stretch. Holding on to the back of a chair or stationary surface and stand with your feet approximately hip width apart. Without moving your hip, bend your knee as far as possible, bringing your heel up towards your buttocks. Do 10-12 reps on each leg.

Marching in Place

Marching in place is a good way to help your hip flexibility and overall balance. On your own or while holding on to the back of a chair or stationary object, take alternating steps in place, bringing the knee up to a comfortable height. Strive for 60 seconds of marching.

Heel Raises

It’s important that your calf muscles—located at the back of your lower leg—remain strong and stretched. They help with knee flexibility and support when walking. Holding on to the back of a chair or stable surface, rise up on your toes and lift your heels off the ground, and then slowly lower back down. Do 10-12 reps.

Wall Slides with Ball Squeeze

Stand with your back against the wall and your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a small, inflated ball (about the size of a soccer ball) between your knees. Slowly slide down the wall by bending your knees and lowering yourself. Your knees should form a right angle with quads parallel to the floor and shins perpendicular to the floor. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Repeat 10 or more times.


Lie on your side with your hip and knees bent to approximately a 90-degree angle, with feet together. While keeping your ankles together, raise your top knee up about 12 inches from the other in a clamshell type motion. Repeat 10-25 times and switch sides.

Glute Bridges

Lie on your back with both knees bent at about a 90-degree angle with your feet on the floor. Tighten your buttocks as you lift your bottom off the floor as high as you can without arching your back. Your shoulders, hips, and knees should align. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds as you extend one leg up while keeping knees aligned. After your lower, repeat on the opposite side. Perform 10-25 reps per side.

Include one or more of these knee-bend exercises alongside or instead of your usual leg routine for stronger legs and healthier, pain-free knees.

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This blog was originally written on January 4th, 2016 and has been updated since.