Knee exercises for runners

These knee strengthening exercises will help with your running, strengthen the muscles around the knee and prevent knee pain.

The exercises from physiotherapist Sammy Margo strengthen all the muscles supporting the knee, including the vastus medialis (also known as the teardrop muscle) and stretch out the iliotibial band, known as the ITB.

These exercises for the knee can be done as part of your warm-up before a run or as a cool-down routine after a run, outside or indoors, or whenever is most convenient.

Typically, you should start to see some benefits after two weeks of doing these knee exercises every day.

You should not feel any pain when doing these exercises. If you do, stop immediately and seek medical advice. These exercises are not suitable for people with an existing knee injury.

 

Knee bends – 3 sets of 10 repetitions (reps)

 

Stand a foot away from a wall with your knees hip-width apart and your feet pointing slightly outwards. Slide your back down the wall by slowly bending your knees. Let the knees point in the same direction as your toes. As you come up, focus on tensing the teardrop muscle and your buttocks.

Tip: place a Swiss ball between your back and the wall for smooth movement

 

Thigh contraction – three sets of 15 seconds with each leg

 

Sit up straight on a chair. Slowly straighten and raise your right leg until straight with your foot pointing slightly outwards. Squeeze your right thigh muscles and hold this position for 10 seconds. For the exercise to be effective, you should keep tensing the teardrop muscle. Repeat with the other leg.

Tip: for more of a challenge, perform with an ankle weight

 

Straight leg raises – 3 sets of 10 reps with each leg

 

Sit up straight on a chair. Straighten and raise your right leg until straight, with your foot pointing slightly outwards. Keeping your leg raised, move your leg up and down while maintaining the contraction in the teardrop muscle. Repeat with the other leg.

Tip: for more of a challenge, perform with an ankle weight

 

Hamstring stretch with thigh contraction – 3 sets of 15 seconds with each leg

 

Sit on the edge of a chair. Keep your left leg bent and straighten your right leg, placing the right heel on the ground with your foot pointing slightly outwards. Bend towards your right leg to stretch your hamstring while tensing your teardrop muscle at the same time. 

Tip: keep your back straight and bend from the hips  you can do the move looking straight ahead or looking straight down

 

ITB (iliotibial band) – 3 sets of 15 seconds with each leg

 

To stretch your right ITB, cross your right leg behind your left leg. Keeping both feet on the ground, lean to your left side and push you right hip outwards. Don’t bend forwards or stick your buttocks out. You should feel the stretch along your outer right thigh and hip.

Tip: lean forwards onto a table to help with balance, or to increase the stretch 

 

Squats – three sets of 10 reps

 

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet pointing slightly outwards and your hands down by your sides or stretched out in front for extra balance. Lower yourself by bending your knees to no more than a right angle. Keep your back straight and don't let your knees go past your toes.

 

Single leg squat – 3 sets of 5 reps with each leg

 

Stand with both feet pointing forwards, hip-width apart. Lift your left foot off the ground and balance on your right foot. Now bend your right leg and slowly lower yourself, making sure your knee doesn’t go past your foot or lean inwards. Push back up slowly to your starting position.

Tip: if you can perform these with good form, you can progress on to the wide stance single leg squat

 

Wide stance single leg squat – 3 sets of 5 reps with each leg

 

Stand with your feet pointing slightly outwards. Shift your weight onto your right leg and lift your left foot off the ground. Now bend your right leg and slowly lower yourself, making sure your right knee points in the same direction as your right foot. Push back up slowly to your starting position, keeping your thigh and buttock muscles tight.

 

Lunges – three sets of 5 reps with each leg

 

Stand in a split stance with your right leg forward and left leg back. Slowly bend the knees, lowering into a lunge until the right leg is nearly at a right angle. Keeping the weight on your heels, push back up to the starting position. Keep your back straight and don't let your knees extend over your toes.

Tip: for more of a challenge, perform these lunges while walking

Page last reviewed: 22/11/2012

Next review due: 22/11/2014

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