Between bending, flexing and carrying the whole weight of our bodies, it’s no wonder knee injuries are so common. With all of the work they put in, our knees not only run the risk of injury, but are prone to degenerative illnesses as well, which is why taking care of them is so important! Don’t worry, we have you covered! Here are 5 stretches and exercises you can do at home to get the most out of your knee health.
Given that the knee is a joint made up of bones surrounded by ligaments and tendons, it is important to work the muscles on both sides of the joint to prevent injury and promote knee strength. Before completing these stretches or any other activity, be sure to get your body nice and loose by warming up. You can check out our recommendations for warming up by reading The Proper Way to Stretch Before Exercising.
Though these stretches can help with your tight legs and hopefully alleviate your knee pain, they may not be enough on their own. Rest and ice are always the first line of defense if you have experienced a knee injury. Since physical therapy is always done under the prescription of a physician, a consultation with a primary care doctor or an orthopedic specialist is recommended.
1. Calf Stretch
Not only is this exercise great for your knees, but it also helps to loosen your ankles.
Stand facing a wall roughly a foot away. Place both of your hands on the wall and step one foot back as far as you can in a comfortable position, still keeping your back heel on the ground. Keeping your feet facing forward, heels down and knees slightly bent, gently lean forward towards the wall until you feel the stretch in your calf. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly come back to your starting position. Wait 10 seconds, then repeat. Complete this stretch three times, then switch legs and repeat.
2. Hamstring Stretch
Found at the back of the upper leg, your hamstring muscles play a big role in your knee health!
Begin in a standing position with one leg crossed over the other at the ankles. Keep your feet as close together as possible. Slowly bend at the waist and reach towards the ground, keeping your upper body as close to your legs as possible. Both of your legs should be straight to feel the pull in this stretch. Once you are able to reach as far as possible without feeling pain (but you should feel a stretch in your hamstring), hold for 30 seconds and then slowly stand back up. Complete this stretch three times, then switch legs and repeat.
3. Simple Squat
This exercise will not only help get your body loose, but will work your quads, glutes and hamstrings all at the same time.
Stand in a typical beginning squat position with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands in a comfortable position that allows you to keep your balance (on your hips, in front of you, whichever feels best for you). Slowly squat down, no need to go all way down or even to a seated position. Simply lower roughly 6-10 inches, a half squat position. Hold the squat position for 30 seconds, then return to standing. Wait 10 seconds, then repeat. Complete this exercise five times.
4. Quad Stretch
You can do this freestanding, or while bracing against a wall or chair for support
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Standing straight, bend one knee so that your heel gets as close to your butt as you can. Once in position, grab your ankle and gently pull it until you feel the stretch in your quad. Do not lean forward! Hold for 30 seconds, then return to your starting position. Wait 10 seconds, then repeat. Complete this stretch three times, then switch legs and repeat.
5. Hip Bridges
That’s right, even stretching your hips can help your knees!
Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Using your glutes and engaging your core (read more about strengthening your core here) bridge your hips up into the air. Your body should make a straight line from your shoulders up to your knees. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then slowly come back down to start. Wait 10 seconds then repeat. Complete this exercise five times.