Four Best Stretching and Strengthening Exercises to Eliminate Knee Pain

runners knee

If you struggle with chronic knee pain, you know how frustrating it can be to try and keep it at bay.


Knee pain is very common, but it’s hard to treat, partly because there are so many different issues that can cause it. Aching knees can be brought on by acute injuries, cartilage damage from poor mechanics, or from a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis.

Whatever is causing your knee pain, these four stretching and strengthening exercises can help you correct imbalances and support the knee joint to relieve your pain and protect it from additional damage.

  1. Calf Stretch

It’s common for the calves to get neglected during a typical stretching routine. However, tight calves can contribute to pain throughout the body, including in the knees. When your calves are tight, you might adjust the way you walk or run to compensate. This, in turn, puts unnecessary pressure on your knees.

It’s very easy to add this calf stretch into your routine. All you need is a wall.

Stand facing the wall and place your right foot right where the wall and floor meet. Flex your foot so your toes are resting on the wall and your heel is on the floor. Keep your legs straight and lean forward on your right leg to feel a stretch in your calf.

Hold for a handful of seconds, then release and repeat for 10-15 repetitions before switching sides.

  1. Quad Stretch with a Foam Roller

Tight quadriceps (muscles on the front of the thighs) can also strain the knees. This is an especially common problem for runners and weightlifters.

One of the best ways to loosen up the quadriceps is with a foam roller. Lie facedown with the foam roller at the bottom of your right quad (right above the knee). Press into your leg and roll slowly over your quad, stopping when you hit a tender spot and holding your weight on it for a few seconds. Don’t roll too fast, or you won’t reap the benefits of the foam roller.

Try to spend about five minutes on each leg, working through tight or tender areas until they start to relax.

  1. Hamstring Curls

Weak hamstrings can also alter your gait and stress your knees while you walk or run. This is an excellent exercise for strengthening the hamstrings and improving range of motion.

Find a sturdy object like a chair or countertop and stand facing it. Hold on for balance. Then, slowly lift your right foot and bend your leg to pull it close to your glutes — avoid bending it beyond a 90-degree angle and make sure your knees are close together.

Hold this contracted position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your leg back down. Repeat for 10-12 repetitions, then switch legs.

  1. Straight-leg Lifts

In addition to strengthening your hamstrings, it’s also important to pay attention to your quadriceps as well. Strengthening them will help you avoid muscle imbalances that could strain your knees and set you up for an injury.

Straight-leg lifts are the perfect exercise for isolating and strengthening the quadriceps.

Start by sitting up straight with your legs extended. Flex your feet and lift your right leg about six inches off the floor. Tighten your quadricep and hold your leg in this position for about five seconds. Then, slowly lower it and repeat for 10-12 repetitions before switching sides.

Make sure your back stays straight (don’t lean backward to pull your leg up) and keep your movements slow and controlled.

Final Thoughts

Knee pain is frustrating, but don’t give up on trying to treat it. Add these four stretching and strengthening exercises into your routine and, with some consistent effort, you’ll likely start to see improvements.

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