Knee Exercises for Runners - Exercises for Knee Pain

Knee Exercises for Runners - Exercises for Knee Pain

Read Time • 6 Min
  • Category Fitness


Knee pain is one of the most universal complaints, especially among runners, and most particularly among those who have just started back into a regular running routine.

The good news is that with the right approach, you wont have to give up your running routine; you can beat knee pain.

Knee Exercises for Runners

3 – Way Leg Extension
How this helps: This has by far and large been the most effective exercise for me when I have experienced pain during running. It builds up the four muscles through the top of the thigh that make up the quadriceps, which wrap around the knee, giving it stability and strength. It is very important to use a very light weight (roughly 10-20 pounds, maximum) during this movement.
You will need: A Leg Extension Machine (found at the gym), or a chair and a simple ankle weight.
How to do it: Sit upright on the Leg Extension Machine. Select a very light weight and position your body so that just one leg is underneath the bar that will lift the weight. Extend that single leg bearing the weight in three different directions; angled to the left, straight forward, and angled to the right. Do two sets of 12 repetitions in each direction on each leg. You can also replicate this exercise at home by sitting in a chair, doing the same motions while wearing an ankle weight.

Agility Dots
How this helps: Agility dots work in multiple planes of motion to tax your knee from different angles. This causes your knee muscles, tendons, and ligaments to build strength that encompasses the entire joint, which helps to protect those same muscles in times of less controlled circumstance (i.e. running on uneven surfaces, or the sides of roads). It also helps shorten reaction time and build balance, which are both essential to avoiding injury.
You will need: Tape, to map out four dots on the floor, or any kind of floor markings to create a mental reference point.
How to do it: Watch the video for Agility Dots

Hamstring Curl
How this helps: The hamstring curl builds up the back of the knee in order to be able to withstand repetitive motions as well as unbalanced stresses that occur during running. This helps to prevent hyperextension, and balances out the strength of the quadriceps.
You will need: A Hamstring or Leg Curl Machine (look for it in your gym), or an ankle weight.
How to do it: The method will depend on the machine style. If you’re doing it with only an ankle weight; stand upright with the weight on one ankle. Bring the weighted ankle upward and as tight to your glutes as possible. Lower and repeat. Do 3 rounds of 12 repetitions.

Hip Adduction
How this helps: Hip Adduction builds the inside of the thigh and, correspondingly, the inside of the knee muscles. This gives the joint lateral support. In conjunction with Hip Abduction, this exercise can actually increase the efficiency of your stride by helping you maintain a straighter line while you’re running by minimizing the natural wobbling, natural curves & meandering that can otherwise occur within in your stride.
You will need:This exercise is most effective using bodyweight, but you can also use a Hip Adduction Machine.
How to do it: Lie on your side, legs extended. Move the top leg so that it rests on the floor, allowing the bottom leg to freely move upward. Lift that bottom leg as high as you can, lower back to the ground and repeat. Do three rounds of 12 repetitions on each leg.

Hip Abduction
How this helps:An antagonist of the Hip Adduction, this knee strengthening exercise gives the joint lateral support through the outside of the thigh.
You will need:This move is also most effective done using just bodyweight, but you can use a Hip Abduction Machine at the gym.
How to do it: Lie on your side, legs extended. Lift the top leg up as high as possible, then return to start position. Repeat three times through, 12 repetitions on each leg.

Shin Flexes
How this helps: Shin Flexes strengthen and stabilize the ankle, as well as strengthen the shin muscle, which helps absorb the impact of repeated heel strikes. Over time and repeated use during running, this is a effective proactive exercise for knee pain.
You will need: A step and bodyweight.
How to do it: Stand on a step balancing on your heels so that your toes hang off. Flex your toes up towards your knees as high as possible, without leaning backwards. Do three sets of 10 repetitions (you may have to work up to this number as this is a challenging exercise).

Calf Raises
How this helps: Calf Raises build arch support, which helps the heel to toe transit, reducing shockwave transmission from the foot to the knee.
You will need: Bodyweight & a single step.
How to do it:Stand on a single leg with your toes balancing on a step, heel hanging off. Rise up onto the ball of your foot as high as possible before lowering back down until you feel a stretch in your calves. Do three sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.

If you incorporate these knee pain exercises and are still experiencing pain, you may want to consider looking into your running frequency, running style, or footwear. Remember to always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.