Seven Best Exercises For Knee Pain (2021 Edition)

Black and white photo of person holding her knee with pain. The knee is painful and inflammed.

Living with daily knee pain can make life miserable; it can prevent you from participating in your favourite activities while making even the most simple of tasks a challenge.

Unfortunately, knee pain is one of the most common orthopedic conditions people seek treatment for, and without proper treatment, it can be problematic for years to come.


Benefits of Knee Strengthening Exercises

Knee strengthening exercises are all about low-impact exercises for pain relief. The moves are designed to be gentle on the affected knee joint while reducing the risk of future knee problems.

If you feel pain when doing activities like climbing stairs, walking, running, or bending over, it is important to seek medical advice before practicing knee strengthening exercises.

Once you have permission from your physical therapist to start practicing knee strengthening exercises, you’ll increase stability in the muscles surrounding the joint and boost flexibility through a combo of strength training and stretching.


Best Exercises For Knee Pain Relief:

Before working out, it is always important to warm up. You can do something as simple as taking a brisk power walk or riding a stationary bike until your heart rate starts rising.

Warming up helps your muscles loosen and lower the risk of injury when performing knee exercises.


1. Clamshells

Lay on your side on a mat and support your neck with a pillow or a rolled-up towel. Bend your knees halfway to your chest with your back straight and your legs and feet aligned with each other.

Keep your feet together while lifting your top knee towards the ceiling. Make sure to keep your hips straight when lifting your knee. This will open your knees and hips.

If you need extra support, place your back against a wall while performing this exercise. It helps keep you aligned and prevents you from rolling forward.

Hold your knee at the top for a moment before slowly lowering back down to the starting position.


Reps: 10-15 per side

Sets: 3

Times a week: 2-3

Physiotherapist in white shirt supporting a patient in a green shirt who's laying on her right side down doing a clamshell movement with her left-leg


2. Calf Raises

Calf raises are a simple yet highly effective exercise for knee pain relief.

Stand behind the back of a chair with feet slightly apart. Slowly raise your heels as high as you can until you are standing on the balls of your feet.

Hold for a count of ten or until you start to feel your calf muscle burn (this should not be painful,) then lower yourself slowly back to the ground.


When this exercise starts to become easy, increase the challenge by lifting one foot slightly off the floor, placing all your weight on the other foot while raising.

Reps: 10-15

Sets: 3

Times a Week: 2-3

Two people with defined calves doing calf raises on a black an grey step-up exercise platform near a floor to ceiling window


3. Glute Bridges

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Keep your arms at your side with the palms of your hands facing up. If needed, you can support your head with a towel or pillow.

Keep your knees in line with your hips and feet. Tighten the buttocks muscles while pushing up until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders.

Be sure to emphasize the push through your heels and only raise your hips as high as you can without causing pain or pressure in your back. Also, guard against arching or rounding your lower back.

Pause at the top, and then slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position.


Reps: 10-15

Sets: 3

Times a week: 2-3

Dark haired woman with pink yoga and black shirt, laying down on green turf doing a glute-bridge exercise


4. Straight Leg Raises

Straight leg raises put little to no strain on your knees.

Start by lying on your back. If needed, use a pillow or a towel to support the neck.

Bend your left knee until your foot is flat on the ground and your back is in a neutral position. Keep your arms straight at your side and in line with your shoulders.

Keeping the right leg straight and toes pointed up, raise it to the height of your left knee. Pause and then slowly lower your right leg back down to the starting position.


Reps: 10-15

Sets: 3

Times a week: 2-3

Pregnant woman in a purple shirt, laying backside down on a blue yoga mat doing a left leg raise in the air


5. Step Ups

Step-ups are a simple exercise that requires minimal to no equipment and provides knee pain relief. All you need is a place to step.

Stand up straight at the bottom of the step. Place your right foot on the step and push with your right leg until you are standing on the top of the step. Lightly touch your left foot to back to the floor and rise back up on the same leg.


Make sure to go slowly. Slower steps are better than fast steps for this exercise.

Reps: 10-15 per leg

Sets: 3

Times a week: 2-3

A man in a blue shirt doing step ups and being on a twenty four inch exercise stool


6. Side Leg Lifts

Lie on one side of your body with your legs stacked. You may bend the bottom leg if you need extra support. Then, with your top leg stretched and toes flexed, lift your leg as high as is comfortable. Hold for a couple of seconds-lower leg to starting position and repeat.

When this exercise gets too easy, you can add ankle weights for extra strength training.

Reps: 10-15

Sets: 3

Times a week: 2-3

Woman with black shirt and white pants, laying on her right side with her left leg slightly extended over her right leg


7. Hamstring Stretch

Lie with your back flat on the floor or any flat surface. Keep your left leg flat on the floor with the right leg bent up for stability.

Loop a towel or a resistance band around your left ankle and lift your leg as high as you can.

Make sure to keep your leg straight and your back flat while performing this exercise.

Hold for at least ten seconds, and then repeat with the right leg.

woman with dark hair wearing white crop top and shorts laying backside down on the floor holding her left leg with both hands


When To Avoid Exercising

If you suffer from severe knee pain, it is essential to get permission from your local healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regime or physical therapy plan.

As long as your doctor or physiotherapist says it’s okay to work out, the best thing you can do for your knees is to strengthen the muscles surrounding them and keep them flexible.

The key is to start slowly and build up over time. If something feels painful or uncomfortable, do not continue the exercise. Sharp, shooting muscle or joint pain is a sign that something is not right. Stop and consult your healthcare provider before continuing.

Make the best exercises for knee pain relief a part of your routine!

Here at Runway Health, we have helped many of our patients overcome or treat their chronic knee pain caused by osteoarthritis and other factors. Our physiotherapists strategically work with our chiropractors and massage therapists to provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan.

We formulate a treatment protocol with a variety of specialized techniques to help you recover from your injuries quicker and help prevent the injury from reoccurring.

Call or text (905) 209-2777 to make an appointment today!