Woman outdoors against gray background smiling with right knee raised

Woman outdoors against gray background smiling with right knee raised

If you suffer from knee pain, here are three proven exercises to avoid knee pain that I highly recommend.

While the massage guns on the market may temporarily improve knee pain symptoms, these exercises focus on strengthening the surrounding muscles, releasing tension, and improving stability and flexibility. You will also need to work on any imbalances or weaknesses in underused muscles when working with long-term knee pain.

Anyone can suffer from knee pain, although high-intensity workouts and high-impact sports like running are more likely to exacerbate it. If that sounds like you, grab one of the best yoga mats and read on for this quick and effective three-movement stretching routine for knee pain and why it’s a winner in my books.

What causes knee pain?

Let’s quickly cover the anatomy of the 101 knee joint. The knee consists of three bones: femur, tibia, and patella that form a hinge joint, which means the knee can bend and straighten. The joint is held stable by four ligaments and two major muscle groups, the hamstrings and quadriceps.

Your knees help support you during exercise, whether you like yoga, running or weight lifting, so focus on keeping your joints healthy and strengthening the muscles around them to keep your knees stable and safe. Current World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend adding strength sessions at least twice a week. However, other muscle groups help carry body weight, such as the hip rotators and glutes. So knee pain and misalignment of the knee could also originate elsewhere.

A runner holding his injured knee

A runner holding his injured knee

The orthopedic clinic explains that your knees are some of the most stressed joints, receiving four times the amount of stress for every pound of body weight (yuck). Knee problems could be caused by poor posture and movement patterns, limited flexibility, or muscle imbalances.

So, quadruple runners, this could increase the likelihood of ACL injuries, for example. But it’s not all doom and gloom. You can learn more about what causes knee pain and the best knee-strengthening exercises here and what not to do.

Stretching routine exercises in 3 movements for knee pain

Add them to your training and recovery regime several times a week for best results as part of a warm up and cool down routine. Perform each exercise for at least two minutes and repeat if you have time. Dynamic stretching is better for preparing muscles and joints before workouts, while static stretches are better for cooling down.

I pulled these three knee exercises from various routines featured in the Pliability Knee Prehab Collaboration with Pliability Athlete Noah Ohlsen. The series offers sequences that build stronger knees using short, dynamic corrective exercises to target the structures around the knees and improve the quality of motion and knee function.

I formed this routine from my favorite stretches, which quickly became staples in my exercise regimen, and I now use them regularly in classes and with clients. Here they are.

1. Ankle dorsiflexion mobilization

Noah performs a half lunge knee stretch with elbows on right knee during stretch on yoga mat

Noah performs a half lunge knee stretch with elbows on right knee during stretch on yoga mat

As:

  • Begin in a semi-kneeling position with right knee raised

  • Keep the hips in and the knee pointing outward from the little toe

  • Lean your weight forward, keeping your heel flat on the ground

  • Place both elbows above the knee to relax the calf muscle when you reach your maximum limit. Hold the position for several minutes, then switch sides.

2. Figure 4 Single Leg Glute Bridge

Noah in supine position on yoga mat with right ankle over left knee and left leg bent at knee

Noah in supine position on yoga mat with right ankle over left knee and left leg bent at knee

As:

  • Start on your back with knees bent and feet planted low

  • Place your right ankle on your left knee, creating a right angle with your right leg

  • Use your abdominal muscles to flatten your lower back to the ground

  • Gently press your right hand against the inside of your right knee to straighten your hip

  • Press into your left heel, then lift your hips up and squeeze your glutes

  • Pause, then slowly lower yourself back to the ground

  • Perform the maximum number of repetitions for one minute and switch sides.

3. Cossack squats

Noah does a Cossack squat with straight arms and lunges to the right side

Noah does a Cossack squat with straight arms and lunges to the right side

As:

  • Stand with your legs apart and your toes pointing forward or slightly outward

  • Engage your core. Stretch your arms out in front of you

  • Bend left knee and bring hips back and over to the left, lower into a side lunge and extend right leg

  • Keep your chest up and sit tall with a neutral spine

  • Keep your left heel planted and when you reach your limit, push through your left heel to stand up

  • Repeat on the right side. If you feel a pinch in your hip, step back and decrease the depth of the squat. Keep an item if you need support. Continue for several minutes.

Here’s what happened when I did 90 Cossack squats every day for a week (it was killer, but it did wonders for my hips).

If you plan to take your knee health to the next level, we’ve included other TG-approved workouts and stretching routines for you to try below.

Remember to always warm up properly and move around as often as possible during the day. Muscles and joints also need time to rest and recover from the stressors of exercise, so factor this into your weekly training regimen. If you suffer from chronic knee pain, visit a qualified physician before starting any new recovery plan.

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