5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Knees

Are you suffering from a knee injury or recovering from one? Does your knee hurt when you run? Try these 5 exercises to strengthen your hips and glues - the key to stabilizing your knee for pain-free running!

It’s been just about 10 months since my knee surgery (WHAT?!?). While I’ve returned to many of my pre-surgery activities, there are still some things that aren’t quite the same as they were before surgery.

I think very consciously before I abruptly twist, turn or change direction. I also notice that despite all my physical therapy, there are still come discernible weaknesses and muscle imbalances. I know that it’s going to take time and that I need to continue to do my exercises. After all, those were some of the lessons I learned from this little injury, right?

One of the things that I learned during physical therapy was that in order to strengthen and stabilize my knees, I needed to strengthen my hips and glutes. Yup, that’s right. My hips and glutes are weak which leads to the instability in my knee.

The muscles in our hips and glutes help to relieve some of the stress and pressure on our knees and to keep our knees in alignment. This is especially true for women. Because we have (ahem) wider hips, that can put extra pressure on our knees and cause them to fall inwards. Strength in your hips and glutes help to counteract this by pulling the knees back into alignment and help you strengthen your knees.

Here are 5 exercises (and a little video) to help you strengthen your knees.

  • Lateral Walks
  • Monster Walks
  • Clamshells
  • Bridges
  • Lateral Leg Raises

Complete 10-15 reps of each exercises. Complete 3 sets.

These exercises were a staple in my physical therapy treatment and continue to be an important part of my exercise routine. You can do these exercises anywhere and all you need is a resistance band. When you perform the exercises, focus on small and controlled movements.


Don’t let these exercises fool you. They look easy but they are hard!

If you do have a knee injury, my friend Tamara at Fitknitchick put together a great list of workout ideas that you can do while recovering from knee injury. Be sure to check them out!

Do you incorporate hip and glutes exercises into your workout routine? What are some of your favorite moves? Do you have a bum knee?

Disclaimer: While I am a yoga instructor, I am not a physical therapist, medical doctor or certified personal trainer. The views I express are mine alone, based on my own experiences. Always talk to your doctor or a trained professional before starting a new diet or fitness plan.



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    • admin says

      Thank you! Yes, I absolutely agree that every minute of PT was worth it and I need to remember to continue with my exercises.

  1. Sylvia @ Frolic Through Life says

    I never knew that hip and glute strength has so much to do with your knees. I experience occasional knee pain, especially when doing squats and lunges. I need to work on this! Great video!
    Sylvia @ Frolic Through Life recently posted..Simply SnackinMy Profile

    • admin says

      Thanks Sylvia! Me too – I didn’t realize how much hips and glutes play in movements like squats and lunges but they really are a huge factor in generating power and stabilizing the knee. Hope this helps!

    • admin says

      Thank you!! I always feel funny in front of the camera. I would love to make it up to visit Toronto. If not in May, hopefully sometime soon!

  2. says

    I am thankful to never have experienced any knee issues. I see what a long process it is to come back from something like ACL and knock on wood! You have done such a great job with your rehab–that diligence will (and is) pay off!
    misszippy recently posted..Pack rulesMy Profile

    • admin says

      Thanks Amanda. I’m knocking on wood and crossing my fingers and toes too for no knee issues for you and me going forward!!

  3. says

    I love the lateral walks (call them firewalkers from a Cathe Friedrich DVD). I’m loving the monster walks too . I’ve never seen those or done them but definitely need to. I’ve had tons of issues with piriformis/glutes so am supposed to be doing the clamshells and the bridges. Thank you for the reminder 😉
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Bike Trainer Spin WorkoutMy Profile

    • admin says

      I kind of love the monster walks. They really make my muscles burn!! I’m always happy to remind people to do their PT exercises. I just have to remember myself too :-)

  4. says

    I hear all that you are saying regarding injury recovery. I’m very acquainted with throes clamshells and bridges due to my back injury.

    Our bodies are amazing machines and we only appreciate them when they breakdown. It’s hard not to be frustrated but recovery really does take time. I have to keep trying to convince myself that the less frustrated I am, the better the recovery will be but it’s not really working.
    Melissa Burton recently posted..An 80′s Night Out in L.A.My Profile

    • admin says

      Recovery really does take time and a whole hell of a lot of patience. I know that it’s been super frustrating with your back and my fingers are crossed that we’ll be both back at it soon. I’m not ready to back down yet.

  5. says

    Great post! I am suffering from some knee problems right now. I think my knee caps are slightly out of alignment but won’t know until I see the sports med. doc tomorrow. I know my glutes are weak as are my hips and I’ve been doing a couple of exercises to strengthen them. I forgot about bridges and clamshells! Will definitely add those to my routine. Thanks for the reminder!
    Phaedra @ Blisters and Black Toenails recently posted..Not What I Kneed Right Now….My Profile

    • admin says

      I hope that your appointment with the doc went well and that you got some more clarity on your knee issues as it’s important to understand what’s causing the knee pain. Bridges and clamshells are great. Hope your knees feel better!

  6. says

    Great video to share around Christine! I do many of the exercises you demo’ed with my ‘pain in the knee’ clients.

    I also have a number of clients who can’t stabilize their knees during heavy lifts because the muscles on the inside of the knee are week. This manifests itself in a ‘knee wobble’ on the up phase of the lift. For these clients, we do opposing muscle work; squeezing a squishy ball between the knees as they squat; practicing balancing on the BOSU or wobble board.

    It’s really important to understand which type of knee injury you have before you start strengthening!
    Tamara recently posted..Knee injury? 7 workout ideas to try while you recoverMy Profile

    • admin says

      Yes! Thanks Tamara for that important note. Knee wobble is definitely something that I’ve experienced post-surgery and I’ve been doing a lot of the exercises that you’ve mentioned as well as well as focusing on stabilizing my knee when stepping down from a step or box. I’m glad that our posts lined up like they did!

  7. says

    I had to do all of these in PT for my hip! The clamshells (with resistance band), lateral walks (with a resistance band around my ankles), and monster walks (with resistance bands) were top 3 most effective… they also made me do a lot of planks and one legged bridges. These are great exercises and they definitely work!
    beka @ rebecca roams recently posted..Playlist Thursday – Rock It OutMy Profile

    • admin says

      Those are all GREAT ones too. I have to remember to incorporate more of them into my routine. Thanks for the reminder!

    • admin says

      Terrible!! Go cross-train! Then again, you’re running like crazy ridiculous miles and are doing fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

    • admin says

      Single leg exercises are fantastic but I hated doing them. Maybe it was my subconscious that left them off this list? 😉

  8. says

    I am all over this! Yes! Yes! Hips and glutes! Learned this from pilates and then from YTT but all that lower body stuff begins with pelvic instability, I love bridges and plan is a great stabilizer too of course. thanks for passing on the good word!
    ilene recently posted..Negligees and Chakra RocksMy Profile

  9. says

    Great exercises! The video is SO helpful.

    I haven’t had my knee replaced but went to the surgeon fully expecting that my knee problems would lead to surgery. Turns out I was wrong and he sent me to PT. Having found these exercises just reinforced my therapist’s suggestions and have made a MAJOR difference in a short time. Now to just KEEP doing them….

    I like the Cybex hip adductor and abductor machines as well, since my knee is still not totally happy with squats of any sort. Like cross trunk rotation too, but from what you say, that might not work for you.

  10. says

    Looks like I’m behind on commenting on here. I’ve only just recently come across your blog and your posts are so great to read. Exercise can take a big impact on our knees whether its a cardio workout or strength training. If you injure yourself whilst exercising many people think its best to rest it until they are fully recovered but I read somewhere that if you have an injury to recover quickly you should rest for a couple of days but try and continue to exercise but lightly, would you agree? But having surgery like you said in this post is a totally different story.
    Reading through your post this is something I found out too to stabilize yourself it means strengthening other areas of the body. I have read in a previous blog before about the body that if you have a hip injury it can weaken your glutes and bottom of your back aswell as your knee. If you were to get some pain in your knee or lower back it can actually be the pain in your hip hurting because all the muscles are weak. It’s fascinating to know these things. Great that you included some exercises into this post. Can anyone of these exercises be done with a light weight at a later stage?

    • says

      It’s absolutely fascinating how everything in our body is interconnected. My physical therapist (and yoga teachers) always say to look up and down the chain from where the injury occurred because that’s likely where you’ll find imbalance and weakness. While I’m not a PT, physical therapist or certified anything except for yoga, I think that you can add resistance. I prefer to use a resistance band because that still allows me to focus on doing the exercise correctly without overcompensating in other areas because I’m trying to lift too much weight. Hope that makes sense!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Behind the Scenes of My Instagram FeedMy Profile

      • says

        Yeah that makes sense. I had totally forgot about resistance bands until you mentioned them. I was given them before by my physcial therapist to help strengthen the muscle in my leg after an injury. When I was given exercises at home they told me to use resistance bands and they gave me different sizes.

  11. Tracy says

    I just turned 40 in April and for the last year whenever I sit or stand my knees hurt. I feel 20 years older than I am. The past couple of months its getting harder and harder to sit or stand up. I have never been an active person and am about 50 pounds over weight. I decided to do research on how to strengthen my knees and everything I read is about strengthening my hips and gluts too. I came across your blog and these exercises are just what I have been looking for. After giving it some thought my hips also hurt and my sciatic nerve gives me a lot of trouble. I’m on a mission to feel younger than I do. I am getting up early and walking or biking each day. I have also started doing your exercises and am doing yoga every other day. I am so enjoying myself and getting a healthy body out of it too. So glad I found this site!

  12. Kerri Ann says

    Thank you Christine for these knee exercises and all the helpful comments others provided. I recently twisted my right knee surfing. I too am a wannabe surfer girl. As I was laying back down on my board the current pushed against my leg and the pain came burning through my LCL. I’ve done many remedies and finally i found your blog via Pinterest. I think the exercises you demonstrated here on your blog not only will help me with my injury but also made me aware to keep my knees strong for a lifetime. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to get back to surfing again.

    • says

      Hi Kerri Ann! I’m so sorry to hear about your knee! I hope that these exercises help. I’ve found that it makes a big difference to really strengthen the whole chain up and down the leg to protect our knees and ankles. You can progress up from here too to single leg exercises like single-leg deadlifts, single-leg squats, etc. depending on how your knee feels. This is just based on my experience as I’m not a physical therapist!

      I hope you that you’re back out in the water again soon!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Currently / JulyMy Profile


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