Quad and Hamstring Exercises to Strengthen Your Knees

How do you strengthen bad knees?

The ability to move with ease is a great gift, but often it isn’t appreciated until it’s lost.

By taking the time to strengthen the surrounding muscles of the knee, you can avoid many of the little aches and pains that can develop over time. This will allow you to enjoy the daily activities you love without pain or discomfort.

A self-evaluation of the integrity of your knees requires you to consider two key points. First, are the muscles around the knee flexible? Can you easily flex and straighten your knee without pain or discomfort? Second, are you strong enough to support your body on each leg while extending or flexing the knee?

The Workout

These exercises focus on strengthening the main muscle groups that affect the quality of movement for your knee. Strengthening the hamstrings and the quadriceps should be seen as a dual effort instead of individual, isolated movements.

A few simple exercises completed each day will ensure you have the strength and flexibility necessary to move freely without pain.

1.     Standing Hip Hinge

The ability to bend at the waist and engage the glutes and hamstrings to pull yourself back up plays an enormous role in how energy passes through the knee. Strengthening these muscles can help protect the knee joint.

Equipment needed: light weight (optional)

Muscles worked: core, hamstrings, and glutes

  1. Stand upright with your feet parallel. They should be about hip-width distance apart. Place your hands on your hips.
  2. With a soft bend behind the knees, hinge slowly over from the waist. Shift the weight in your feet back to your heels as you “reach” back with your rear end.
  3. Once you have reached a point that stretches your hamstrings without completely bending over at the waist, stop and return to the top.
  4. Make sure to squeeze your glutes and hamstrings until you reach the top.
  5. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.

2.     Seated Leg Extension

The last few degrees needed for full leg extension come from a muscle in the quads called the vastus medialis. This exercise will help strengthen your quads.

Equipment needed: 1- to 3-pound ankle weight (optional)

Muscles worked: quadriceps

  1. Start seated in a chair in the upright position. Your back should be flat.
  2. Extend 1 leg forward until it’s completely straight but not locked out.
  3. To reach the perfect position, make sure the leg is completely parallel to the ground and the ankles are flexed up toward the knee, toes to the ceiling.
  4. Slowly lower the foot back down to the floor and repeat.
  5. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each leg.

3. Wall Facing Chair Squats

To ensure that you have the right form and are using the correct muscles for this exercise, you’ll need to start by facing an open wall or door.

Equipment needed: standard table chair

Muscles worked: all the muscles in the lower body

  1. Stand about 1 foot away from the wall you are facing. Place the chair just behind you. It should be at a comfortable enough height for you to sit down.
  2. Facing forward with your feet parallel and hip-width distance apart, slowly lower yourself down (don’t plop) to sit in the chair. Do this without turning your head, face, hands, or knees to the wall.
  3. Throughout the movement, brace your core. Drive down into the floor through your legs and stand all the way back up. You should lock out your hips at the top with good posture.
  4. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.

4. Low Plank Hold with Knee Flex

Walking, jogging, and many other exercises require your body to engage the quads of one leg while engaging the hamstrings of the opposite leg. This exercise will allow you to work both at the same time.

Equipment needed: none

Muscles worked: quadriceps, core, and hamstrings

  1. Lie on the ground in a low plank hold position on your elbows.
  2. Lift 1 leg slightly off the floor. Flex your knee to bring you heel up toward your glute, contracting your hamstring.
  3. Without dropping your leg or your hips, extend the leg out and repeat.
  4. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each leg.

The Takeaway

Everyone should have the ability to move without pain in the knees. This is true regardless of your age or physical ability. These exercises are perfect to complete in the comfort of your home, at the office during a short lunch break, or at your local fitness center.

Be aware of how you feel as you practice these movements. If pain or discomfort persists or increases, contact your doctor.