The human knee is a magnificent structure. It allows for upright locomotion and is one of the key biological adaptations that have brought us to where we are at today.

However the knee’s health is often ignored by most folks, and without periodic maintenance comes the aches, pains, and injuries that lead us all to be sidelined. Here are a few quick and easy exercises to maintain these critical joints!

7 knee exercises for quick pain relief:


1. Steam Boats

The Steam Boat is one of the greatest exercises you can perform to improve your leg stability about all of the joints… especially the knee. To perform these, stand with all of your weight leaned to one of your legs with the knee and hip slightly bent.

Now pump your opposite leg forward and backward while trying to not touch the ground. Perform sets of 15 or so and switch your legs.

It might seem simple, but this is actually one of the most fundamentally awesome things you could put your lower body through. This helps initiate stronger coordination of all of the muscles that allow you to support body weight when you’re on one leg.

To be more particular about your knees, this helps get both the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis firing as more supportive roles. Ultimately this can help lead to decreasing any excessive pressure being put on your collateral ligaments, generously reducing any risk of rupturing them.

2. Figure Four Stretch

Stretching is a key component to any exercise routine, and the Figure Four stretch should be right there within everyone’s repertoire. Perform these by crossing one of your ankles over the opposite knee, making a “four” with your legs.

Now either sit back into a squat, or hang off of a stable object to get your hips back and low. Hold these for 20 to 30 seconds on each side, and do it four times on each leg.

You’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with your knees, but I assure you it does.

This stretch is great at loosening out all three of the glute muscles, the tensor fasciae latae, as well as the fibrous tissue that the gluteus maximus inserts into, the iliotibial tract… or IT band for short.

If you’re a runner, you most likely have borne witness to the discomfort or pain that excessive tightness within the IT band can cause. Routine stretching of this fibrous connective tissue should help reduce some of the pain and swelling, but supplement that with ice, compression, and rest if it persists.

3. Calf Raises

7 knee exercises for quick pain relief2

Another exercise that may seem a bit out of place, but a crucial one to perform regularly. Achieve these by placing the ball of your feet on a surface that is elevated around two to four inches off of the ground.

Now lift yourself up, fully plantar flexing your feet so you are more or less on the toes. Add free weights to increase your load if body weight just isn’t enough, and target for sets of 12.

Doing this obviously improves your calves, in both strength and definition, allowing for more forceful plantar flexion. However, most folks don’t know that the gastrocnemius muscles originate on the femur, your upper leg bone.

This gives these muscles secondary roles as lower leg flexors and knee stability muscles, key for unloading any unwanted stress on those collateral ligaments again.

4. Foam Rolling

Excessive weight training, or any other mode of training your legs really, can cause high levels of tension in the powerful muscles that surround the knee joint… which can increase pressure and sometimes pain within the joint.

Foam rolling is one of the best things you can put these sore and tight muscles through, and in general it helps get them back to working order by loosening up the fascia that surrounds a muscle.

This is sometimes considered myofascial release, and is essentially the same thing an experienced masseuse tries to do to your achy muscles.

Target each specific muscle of your legs, and slowly roll back and forth on one of those closed cell foam cylinders that you probably have seen lying around your local gym.

Be wary of using too much pressure, and modify your stance if it gets painful (it should only be slightly uncomfortable). Get two to four rolls in on each muscle, and be sure to get both legs!

5. Skaters/ Lateral Bounds

These are similar to those Steam Boats, but now you’re getting airborne! Stand with your feet parallel, and leap as far as you can to one side. Land on only the outside leg, and try to prevent using your other leg by balancing it behind you as you load and prepare for the next leap.

Complete it all by bounding to the other side, thus using the opposite leg to receive the landing. Shoot for 16 to 26 or so per set and give yourself plenty of rest in between those sets.

Similar to the Steam Boat, this exercise utilizes the muscles that help stabilize the leg during motions that require ample amounts of balance control.

However, this exercise can potentially activate more muscles in the posterior compartment… adding to the benefits that those Steam Boats grant to the anterior compartment.

It is important to modify this exercise based on your own comfort and your athletic skill; so perform these with only a slight bound from side to side if you have to, stabilizing yourself by touching your opposite foot down for balance if you need to.

6. Straight Leg Lifts

Again, this exercise aides in the support of your leg joints by facilitating the usage of your iliopsoas muscles, powerful hip flexors which are located deep in your pelvis.

By convincing these to do more work to help you remain upright you can take a marginal amount of pressure and workload off of your quads, which sometimes put excessive pressure on your knee.

To perform this exercise, lay down on a flat surface and bend one leg so that your knee is up and bent in roughly a 90 degree angle. Now keep the other leg straight and lift it until it is about level with your bent one. Perform anywhere between 10 to 15 per leg, and remember to switch sides!

You should feel this on the top of your thigh, close to your groin. Be sure to get plenty of rest between sets… you might experience some cramping if otherwise!

7. Water Aerobics/ Swimming

Normally I’m not the first one in the pool, I’m a terrible swimmer!

However, water based exercise is the absolute best for sore or achy knee joints… hence why aqua therapy is probably the number one joint pain treatment prescribed by therapists.

Getting in the water does two things for your sore knees, and other joints: one, it actively cools the joint and the tissues (lowering any inflammation that may be present); two, it takes a lot of weight off of those joints (which may be suffering from osteoarthritis from your body weight and all of that wear and tear you have put it through!).

There is no right or wrong way to exercise in water, but you should maximize your time in the water for ample amounts of cardio. Swimming is an excellent way to burn fat, mostly due to our bodies not being adapted too well for aquatic life.

If you’re looking to drop some weight on top of reducing your knee aches, then try to hit 30 to 45 minutes a day in the pool… aiming for constant swimming. You might find that your knees will feel better, and your pants might fit a little looser!


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