Updated: April 22, 2020
One of the most common misconceptions about running is that it is harmful for your joints. Although running does not actually harm our joints, it is still necessary to strengthen the muscles surrounding our most vulnerable joints.
Knee strengthening exercises can benefit every runner.
While most of us know that we are not damaging our joints by running, it’s difficult to adequately explain to non-runners that the pounding of running is not, in fact, harmful for your joints.
So if running is not actually harmful for our joints, why do so many runners suffer from knee pain?
Knee pain seems to infect runners like the plague – making its way through beginners and amateurs, even to affect the elites. This knee pain is so common that it’s been given a name to help describe what you are feeling:
Ah, runner’s knee. A painful condition that brings us all together to commiserate.
The term runner’s knee refers to pain we experience on the run that is isolated to our knee area. It covers a wide range of pain – from sharp, isolated pain, to a generic, wide-spread ache. This type of pain often feels chronic when we are suffering from it – it just never seems to go away.
Relentless pain of any sort can feel frustrating enough, but especially when we feel it with each step we take. Many runners wind up taking time off in attempts to recover and heal from knee pain. However, without taking a few proactive steps to prevent and treat this pain, it may resurface soon after you return to the sport.
Luckily, preventing knee pain on the run can be relatively simple.
General knee strengthening is a great way to avoid and prevent being plagued with this knee pain. Taking a few minutes each week to complete a few knee strengthening exercises and stretches will help protect your body from knee pain in the future.
These knee strengthening exercises are perfect for runners hoping to prevent knee pain, and are essential for runners who need to treat runner’s knee.
With a mix of stretches, balance and strengthening exercises, this knee strengthening routine is perfect for runners of all kind. These exercises will strengthen your knee to keep it strong and healthy, while also building a protective barrier with the muscles that surround it.
10 Essential Knee Strengthening Exercises for Runners
Standing Leg Extension x 10 (per leg and per side)
This exercise requires a resistance band of some sort. You’ll want either a loop band or one that you can tie together to form a loop. .
Standing with two feet about hip width distance apart, place both feet inside the band. Extend one leg straight out in front of you until you feel resistance from the band. Bring the leg back to its starting position and repeat. Repeat in all four directions, turning your body 45 degrees each time.
Side Steps x 25 (per side)
This exercise can be completed with or without a loop resistance band. For extra resistance and increased strengthening, place a resistance band around your thighs, resting just above your knees.
Stand with your feet about hip width distance apart and send your hips back to lower into a squatting position. Step out to the side with one leg, wide enough that you feel resistance from the band. Maintaining your squatting position, step the opposite leg towards your foot to bring your feet together. Continue side stepping in the same direction, and then repeat with the opposite foot leading.
Side Leg Raises x 20 (per leg)
Begin by lying on your side with your legs stacked. Simply raise your top leg to create a 45 degree angle with the floor, keeping the leg straight the entire time. Lower to the stacked leg position and repeat.
Forward Leg Raises x 20 (per leg)
Begin by lying on your back. Keeping your legs extended straight, raise one leg to create a 45 degree angle with the floor. Lower back to the floor and repeat.
Side Plank x 30 seconds (per side)
Begin by lying on your side with your legs stacked. Elevate onto your elbow by placing it on the floor below your shoulder and then lift your hips off the floor. Keep your hips elevated to remain in line with your body as you balance on the edge of your bottom foot and your elbow.
Clamshells x 20 (per side)
Begin by lying on your side with your legs stacked. Bend your knees and then simply lift the top knee into the air while maintaining its bent position. Keep your feet together and focus on simply lifting and lowering your top knee.
Single Leg Hop x 20 (per side)
Beginning in a standing position, lift one foot off the floor to balance on the opposite leg. While balancing on a single leg, hop up and down slightly from the floor.
Step Up x 20 (per side)
Begin by standing in front of a stair, chair or other sturdy, elevated surface. Place one foot on top of the stair, and use your glutes and quad muscles to propel your body upwards and step up with the bottom foot. Lower back to the floor and repeat.
Hip Dip x 20 (per side)
Using the same stair, chair or elevated surface as the previous exercise, begin by standing on top of the surface. Move towards the edge of the surface and balance on one leg as you raise your hip to lift the opposite foot in the air. Lower your outside hip to dip your foot below the edge of the stair, and then lift your hip to bring your foot back in line with the top of the stair.
Bosu Ball Squats x 20
This exercise requires a Bosu Ball to complete to the full extent. If you do not have a Bosu Ball, you can complete just a regular squat instead.
Stand on the top of the round side of the Bosu Ball, or the flat side for an extra challenge. Spread your feet about hip width distance apart and balance. Slowly send your hips dip to lower into a squat and then return to standing.
4 Crucial Stretches to Prevent Knee Pain
Standing IT Band Stretch x 30 seconds (per side)
Begin in a standing position with both feet together. Cross your right foot over your left foot, and place it on the floor directly next to the outside of your left foot.
From this cross-legged position, bend at the waist and reach your hands down towards the floor. Reach towards the right side of your legs, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Repeat with left leg crossed over right.
Standing Calf Stretch x 30 seconds (per side)
Begin by standing about a foot away from a wall or door. Step your left leg up towards the wall, and then lean forward until you feel a stretch in your calf.
Standing Achilles Stretch x 30 seconds (per side)
Begin in a standing calf stretch position, and then simply drop the knee of the leg behind you. Lean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in your achilles and lower calf.
Seated Hamstring Stretch x 30 seconds (per side)
Begin in a seated position with both legs extended straight out in front of you. Bend the left knee and bring your foot in to touch the inner thigh of your right leg. Bend forward and reach for your right toes as you stretch your right hamstring.
If you’re suffering from knee pain, completing these strengthening exercises and stretches on a daily basis is a great way to help heal and treat your knee pain. While these exercises will help you recover much quicker than resting alone, treating knee pain always takes time and patience.
Once you are back to running, incorporate these knee strengthening exercises on a weekly basis to keep your knees strong and prevent runner’s knee from making an appearance. You might be surprised what just a few minutes of dedicated strengthening can accomplish each week!