Knee exercises for runners

Written by aja dorsey jackson
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Knee exercises for runners
Strengthen muscles around the knee to avoid injury. (knee image by Vasily Smirnov from

Runner's knee, an erosion and cracking of the cartilage under the kneecap resulting in knee pain and inflammation, is one of the five most common running injuries. Performing exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the knee will help you reduce the risk of developing knee pain or sustaining a knee injury.


Quadriceps, the muscle located at the front of the thigh, controls kneecap movement and is one of the main muscle groups supporting the knee. Squats are a common exercise for strengthening quads, providing more support for the knee. In addition to basic squats, perform wall squats by standing with your back against a wall with feet hip width apart, stepping your feet out about 60 cm away from the wall and then lowering into a squat. Hold this pose for at least five seconds to start, increasing it as your muscles become stronger. This type of squat challenges the quad muscles through isometric exercise, or static movement, achieved by holding the position. As with any squat, do not allow your knees to move ahead of your toes, which causes stress to the knee.


Because so many exercises, including running, strengthen the quads, the hamstrings in many runners are far weaker than the quadriceps. But the hamstring is the other major muscle group supporting the knee. While quads should be about 25 percent stronger, too much of an imbalance can contribute to knee weakness. Hamstrings run along the back of the thigh and help bend the knee and absorb shock when you push against something, as runners do when pushing off of the ground. A hamstring curl, which you perform by standing on one leg and lifting the other foot to the buttocks, is a common exercise to strengthen hamstrings. You can also perform hamstring curls by lying on your stomach and placing your left foot on the back of the right heel. Resist with the right leg while raising the left foot toward the buttocks and holding for 10 seconds. Simply walking backward is another exercise runners can use to develop hamstring muscles.

Knee stabilisation

Knee stabilisation exercises strengthen the other muscles that affect knee stability, such as the inner and outer hip abductors, the calf muscles and glutes. To perform a knee stabilisation series exercise, stand to the side of a chair resting your hand on it for balance. Lift the outside leg slightly, then tighten the muscles in the lifted leg, moving it in front of the standing leg, and hold for three to five seconds. Perform the exercise standing behind the chair as well, moving the non-standing leg back and forth instead of side to side. Increase the intensity of the exercise as your muscles grow stronger by letting go of the chair.

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