Dealing with bad knees was a constant part of my entire life for years. As a 6’ 10” basketball player who grew at a relatively quick pace, I have had a lot of trouble with my knees.
However, through the help of physical therapists and strength coaches throughout the world, I have found numerous exercises for bad knees which reduce pain, improve long-term health and condition, and help your knees function normally!
In my opinion, the best leg exercises for bad knees are:
Keep reading below to find out my favorite leg exercises for bad knees!
Best Exercises for Your Legs to Improve Knee Health
In my opinion, the best exercise for bad knees is the step up. Without a doubt, this is one of the simplest exercises to perform for your knees.
The step up is not that much harder than simply walking up stairs (until you add weight) and the movement improves many of the main functions of healthy knees.
The best way to begin using this exercise is to start with simple bodyweight step ups. After time, you can begin using weights or more advanced variations.
Reverse Slide Lunges
Lunges are a great exercise, but other than the reverse slide lunge, they can strain your knees too much.
The reverse slide lunge strengthens your glutes, hamstrings and quads evenly, and it is one of the safest ways to strengthen your patellar tendon as well.
After you master the basic reverse slide lunge, you can try some advanced reverse slide lunge variations. Check out this video of a few of my favorite reverse slide lunge exercises!
Although these first two exercises are great for full-leg strengthening, they are still more quad-dominant exercises.
Contrarily, glute bridges target your posterior chain muscles (hamstrings, glutes, calves) much more.
Glute bridges are one of the easiest exercises to do in your home, and you can easily do enough throughout the day to make a significant impact on how your knees feel. You can do glute bridges nearly every day, and they are especially useful when you wake up in the morning.
For glute bridges, you can do either isometric holds (for time), or you can use a traditional rep scheme.
Once you are comfortable doing traditional glute bridges, you can try some more advanced variations such as the single leg glute bridge like in the video below.
Along with improving your knee health, glute bridges are also great for your back and spine, and your overall posture.
Single Leg Deadlift
Although single leg deadlifts with weight are great for developing leg muscles and athletic ability, doing bodyweight single leg deadlifts is one of the best ways to improve your knee health. Single leg deadlifts improve the mobility and stability of your knee joint, and the exercise strengthens the surrounding muscle as well.
Starting the morning with a couple sets of single leg deadlifts can help prepare your knees for the rest of your day!
Once you have mastered the single leg deadlift without weight, you can try weighted variation or BOSU ball single leg deadlifts to improve your knees even more.
Leg Exercise Workout Program for Your Knees
For beginners, a simple workout program with these exercises should look like:
- Bodyweight Step Ups- 4 Sets X 20 Reps
- Bodyweight Reverse Slide Lunges- 3 Sets X 8 Reps (per leg)
- Glute Bridges- 4 Sets X 15 Reps
- Single Leg Deadlift- 3 Sets X 8 Reps (per leg)
You can do these exercises in a “circuit” or you can use them separately. If you want to fit a total body workout into your knee exercise workout, you can add a “super set” of bodyweight exercises for your upper body and core.
Concluding Thoughts – Leg Exercises for Bad Knees
If you have bad knees, these are a few fundamental exercises which can help you live pain free.
Using these exercise two to three times per week is the best option if you want to make a substantial difference in the health of your knees. Many people will feel an improvement even after their first workout!
If you begin to notice a positive difference in the health of your knees, don’t stop using the exercises! If you have knee problems, they will come back if you stop working on them!
Use these exercises consistently and develop a good habit for best results.