October 21, 2022

10 Knee Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Knee Pain

Incorporating regular knee exercises in your everyday routine can help to decrease any knee pain you might be experiencing. Learn more about our top six knee strengthening exercises.

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Knee Exercises

Home / Living with Diabetes / 10 Knee Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Knee Pain

How to Strengthen Your Knees

Have you ever thought about how often you use your knees? Many people haven’t, but these joints play a crucial role in your body. Your knees need to be fully functional for you to move in many ways, from participating in vigorous exercise like jogging and climbing to enjoying a brisk walk. As a person with diabetes, you understand that it’s essential to get regular physical activity. As part of this, knee health is something you should take seriously.

However, keeping your knees in good shape isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Since you use these joints so much every day – and since they’re the largest joints in the body – they’re especially prone to damage and discomfort. If you’re experiencing knee problems, this list of six knee strengthening exercises may help.

What Are the Benefits of Knee Strengthening Exercises?

For people concerned about the health of their knees, getting them moving is essential. Exercises to strengthen your knees don’t strengthen the joint itself but the muscles around it. Helping these muscles grow stronger and more flexible comes with many benefits, ranging from injury prevention to improved management of osteoarthritis.

To reap the rewards of knee strengthening exercises, you’ll need to do them the right way. Since changes to your workout routine can affect your blood sugar, talk to your healthcare team before trying any of the exercises listed in this article. Additionally, make sure to warm up first with activities like taking a short walk, riding a stationary bike, or doing a few pushups.

What Types of Knee Pain Can Be Relieved By Exercise?

As mentioned above, the mobility of the knee is paramount but this can be tricky when in pain. However, these movements when done correctly will actually reduce your knee pain. Some of the pain mitigation techniques can be applied to these conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Meniscus tears
  • Sprained knee ligaments

If you have any of the conditions listed above, consult a physician before changing your workout regime.

The Top 10 Knee Strengthening Exercises


1. Leg Lifts


This simple exercise is ideal for working on your quadriceps and abdominal muscles. Start by lying flat on the floor (possibly using a yoga mat or similar floor covering for added comfort). While keeping your left leg flat, bend your right leg at its knee. Then, bring your abs in – imagine these muscles getting pulled down by your belly button.

Once you’ve done all this, start gradually lifting your left leg, taking care not to bend its knee. Stop when it’s roughly a foot off the floor and hold it in place for five seconds. Once this time has passed, slowly bring your leg down. Repeat two more times before switching to your right leg.

Keep your back straight during this knee exercise, and don’t let the leg you’re lifting go above the knee of the leg you’re bending. People with back compression pressures or osteoporosis should not perform leg lifts.

2. Standing Hamstring Curls


Along with the hamstrings, this will help you work on your gluteal muscles. Stand straight up, keeping your knees an inch or two apart. For balance, lean on a stable object or surface nearby. Bend one of your knees behind you, and continue until you have bent this knee at a 90-degree angle. Meanwhile, your straight leg should be just a bit bent to prevent it from locking.

After holding your bent leg up for five seconds, bring it back down. Go through this process twice more, and switch to the other leg when you’re done. Keep your feet flat throughout the exercise.

3. Hamstring Curls on a Weight Bench


Just like our last exercise, this is perfect for building your gluteal muscles and hamstrings. That’s because it’s a variation of the standard hamstring curl that incorporates a specially-made weight bench.

You’ll start by lying face-down on the bench, keeping your knees close, and grabbing the bench’s handles. Then, tuck your feet under the weight so that it sits above your heels. Bend both knees gradually, and raise the weight with your legs until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Hold the weight there for five seconds, slowly bring it back down.

There are a few ways to make this exercise easier or more challenging for yourself, depending on your needs. Factors that help determine the intensity level of this workout include the number of reps you do and the weight you use. Never use overly heavy weights if you’re just getting started; instead, use the lightest weight available and build your strength over time.

4. Single-leg Dip


Targeting the largest muscle groups in the lower body, this exercise may take some building up to, but it’s worth it to strengthen the quads, hamstring, and glutes.

Move two high-backed chairs (think dining room chairs) back-to-back and step inside,  placing the backs of each chair next to your arms. Use the backs of the chairs as hands rests for balance. Lift one leg 12 inches off the ground and place your weight on the other leg.

Bend down a few inches, pushing your weight onto the heel of the supporting leg. Hold the squat for 5 seconds and slowly stand up.

Repeat and switch sides.

5. Child’s Pose Variation


This is a take on the classic yoga move that takes knee flexibility into consideration. Repeated stretches will help increase flexibility over time.

You’ll need a stack of folded towels or a sofa cushion for a head rest and a rolled towel behind your knees. Kneel on the floor and bring your toes together to touch and fold your torso over with your knees wide. Bring your forehead down to rest on the cushion.

Reach your arms over your head and place your hands flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Hold the pose for 15 breaths and slowly roll your spine back up to kneeling position. Repeat.

6. Water Jogging


Cardio is still important, even with knee injuries or pain. To protect your knees, try this gentle form of jogging.

Enter a pool or body of water to chest deep. Jog in place slowly with your arms braced on the surface for stability. To get the heart pumping, try for 10-15 minute increments.

7. Seated Knee Extension


Here’s a good knee strengthener for days when you don’t have much energy or you’re stuck at your desk.

Sit in a firm chair with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift your leg from the ground and contract your thigh muscle. Hold for 5 second and return foot to the ground. Repeat on each side for ten repetitions.

8. Step Exercises


This exercise might look straightforward, but it gets multiple muscle groups moving. Your hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles will all get a workout.

Before you start doing step exercises, check to make sure you have a stool or exercise platform that’s six inches tall or shorter. Step onto this stool with your right leg, letting your left foot hang behind the platform. Shifting your weight to your right foot, stand on the stool for up to five seconds; then, step down, starting with your left foot. Finally, switch legs and repeat.

While performing step exercises, make sure your knees don’t lock and that the stepping foot is entirely on the stool. If you have balance problems, you shouldn’t attempt this type of exercise.

9. Wall Squats


It’s not time to take a rest just yet, but you will be in a sitting position for part of this exercise! Like many other exercises listed here, it’s a great way to develop your gluteal muscles and quadriceps.

First of all, stand against a nearby wall, keeping your head, shoulders, back, and hips flat. Step out with both feet so they’re about two feet from the wall, keeping your back and shoulders in place at the same time. Your feet should be separated by the width of your hips at most.

Then, gradually slide down the wall until you’re just above your normal sitting position. Hold this pose for five seconds, slide back up the wall, and repeat. Be sure not to squat too low or move too fast while doing this exercise!

10. Post-Exercise Stretching


At the end of any workout, you’ll need to stretch the muscles you’ve been working on. That way, you’ll promote flexibility while lowering your risk of muscle injury.

  • Quadricep Stretch – Lift one of your feet behind your body and grab your ankle. Meanwhile, hold onto the back of a chair or put a hand on a wall for balance. Keeping your back straight and your knees close, pull the heel close to your buttocks. Hold it in place for 30 seconds or less, bring your leg back down, and switch sides.
  • Toe Touches – Toe touches are perfect for stretching your hamstrings. Put your feet close together, slowly bend at your hips, and bring your arms down. Touch your toes with your fingers, and stay in place for 30 seconds. If you can’t quite reach your toes, get as close as you can without pain.
  • Standing Hamstring Stretch – Standing hamstring stretches are a good alternative for people with lower back issues that can make toe touches difficult. Stand straight up, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart at most. Bend just a bit at your hips and extend your right leg out in front of you, letting your left leg bend slightly. Keep your back straight, bring your chest down, and bend down as far as you can without discomfort. Hold in place for 30 seconds before returning to your starting position and repeating with the left leg.


Whether you’ve had diabetes for years, are at risk of type 2 diabetes, or have no history of this condition, exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your life. These health benefits extend to your knees, and the activities described here can help alleviate low-level knee pain.

woman-stretchingFor more info on exercising with diabetes, US MED has you covered! Get started by reading all about planning a diabetes-safe exercise routine and about small changes that can help you get more physical activity.

Along with this, we can help you order any diabetes supplies you might need. US MED is a trusted supplier of insulin pens, insulin pumps, CGM systems, and more. Find out how we’ve built such a strong reputation by placing your first order with us today!





Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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