How to Strengthen Knees: Easy Knee-Strengthening Exercises for Runners

How To Strengthen Knee For Running

Running requires your body to be as strong and healthy as possible. Therefore, you must take extra special care of your knees to prevent overuse injuries or chronic pain from occurring.

If you’d like to learn how to do this, we’ve included everything you need to know plus easy knee-strengthening exercises for runners below.

Is Running Bad For Your Knees?

The short answer is no, running is not bad for your knees. Doing this sort of exercise can be great for your knees and other joints (in moderation, of course). 

Whether running hurts your knees or not largely depends on the way that you run, the environment, the shoes that you are wearing, and whether they are appropriate.

If you are running in bad form too often, you may suffer from weak knees.

Why It’s Important To Strengthen A Weak Knee When Running

We rely heavily on our knees when it comes to everyday movements like walking, jumping, and running.

This is because our knees support our full body weight during each of these activities.

Running places a higher load of stress on the knees than other forms of activity, so making sure that you work on strengthening them is crucial to your success as a runner.

How To Strengthen Your Knees For Running

Firstly, you must wear the correct footwear. If your running shoes are not providing the right kind of support for the way you run, your knees will be taking all the strain of the run. This is when your knees will begin to weaken.

There are a few key muscles involved in the stabilization of your kneecap. These are the hamstrings and the quadriceps.

However, the gluteus medius and maximus also play a big role, meaning they must also become part of your workout routine.

You don’t just need to strengthen these muscles but also work on improving joint mobility above and below the knee, such as the ankles and the hips.

Not doing enough stretching, or selecting the wrong types of stretches, for these areas can result in a weaker knee.

How To Strengthen Knee For Running

4 Easy Knee-Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Injury prevention is an important thing for runners. To avoid knee injuries, it is essential to incorporate some knee-strengthening exercises for runners.

You can also use physical knee support to help but we’d never recommend substituting this for rest, stretching, rehab exercises, and wearing the right footwear. 

Fortunately, a few exercises are best suited to this purpose. These will not only strengthen the muscles around the knee but will help you when it comes to running.

1. Knee Bend

Knee bend is an easy exercise to strengthen the muscles around your knee (yes, it is easy to do, but surprisingly hard).

Do 10 times, rest, and repeat 2 times more.

  • Stand in front of a wall, about one foot away from the wall.
  • Keep your legs hip-width apart and your toes pointing outwards.
  • Lean your back on the wall behind you.
  • Start bending your knees slowly while sliding your back down the wall.
  • Your knees point in the same outward direction as your toes.
  • You don’t have to go down very far. See that the knees do not go outward past the toes.
  • As you slide back up, tense the muscles around your knees and buttocks.

2. Straight Leg Raises

Do 10 times, rest, and repeat 2 times more.

  • Sit upright and make sure your back is straight.
  • Start raising your left leg until it is horizontal. Keep your foot pointed slightly outwards.
  • Making sure that your leg is raised, move your leg slowly up and down while keeping some contraction in the muscle above the knee. Don’t let your raised foot have contact with the floor!
  • Repeat with your other leg. Try to aim for three sets of 10 reps with each of your legs.

Feel free to use an ankle weight to add a greater challenge to your exercises!

3. Lunges

You may be familiar with lunges. If not, we’ve included the steps below.

Knee strengthening exercises for runners - Lunges
  • Stand upright with your feet placed shoulder-width apart.
  • Step forwards into a stance with one leg into a long stride (left leg forward and right leg back, or vice versa).
  • Slowly begin to bend both of your knees, lowering into a lunge with your front leg at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keeping the weight pushed back onto your heels, begin to push back to the starting position.
  • Make sure to keep your back straight and your knees in position. They should never extend over your toes.

Do as many lunges as you want, although sticking to three sets of 10 to 15 reps may be a good place to start.

Side Note: if your knees are in pain, we’d recommend staying as far away from lunges and squats as possible!

4. Squats

Knee strengthening exercises for runners - squats
  • Begin this exercise with your feet placed shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your hands stretched out in front of you or flat by your sides to ensure you have extra balance.
  • Start lowering yourself by slowly bending your knees. Never move your body past a right angle when doing this as you risk causing more injury.
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds and then straighten your legs to return to the starting position.
  • Make sure your back remains straight and never allow your knees to go past where your toes are.

Aim to do around three sets of anywhere from 12 to 15 reps with these basic squats. 

How Often Should You Do Knee-Strengthening Exercises?

Use these knee-strengthening exercises for runners 2-3 times a week to keep your knees strong.

You can increase this amount when you want, but make sure you do not feel any discomfort or pain as you do so. 

Like any other type of exercise, consistency is key when it comes to strengthening your knee for running purposes. After all, your body must change and adapt to the conditions!

Is It Ok to Still Run With an Injury or Soreness in the Knee?

While this is a tricky question, as each case is different, there are a few things to note.

Have you noticed any changes in your running form? The first thing to look for when experiencing pain is a change in your running form.

If you can run normally while sore, you can probably continue training.

But you should take some time off and rest if your running form changes because of the pain.

Do you experience pain while running? Second, consider the type of pain you’re experiencing.

You should stop running if the pain is sharp and constant.

But suppose the running form is not impacted, and the soreness gradually disappears as you warm up. In that case, you can probably continue to exercise.

Anyway, it is better to take it easy and reduce the intensity. Stretching and recovery are also important.

The Bottom Line

That concludes everything you need to know about strengthening your knee for running! 

It effectively involves doing lots of behind the scene preparation. This includes incorporating effective exercises into your routine and also giving yourself some time to let your knee heal between runs.

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