The knee joint provides both mobility and stability to the leg, but its health also relies on the strength and stability of the hip and ankle joints. Looking at the muscle chain of the leg, we notice several muscles that cross either the hip or ankle joint, as well as the knee. If there is weakness or dysfunction in those muscles, it can affect the stability of the knee.
It is, therefore, important to incorporate exercises for the stabilizing muscles of the hip and ankle into your physical therapy knee exercise routine. This can help reduce stress on the knee joint during functional activities such as stair-climbing, walking and running.
In physical therapy, we treat all conditions of the knee joint and support the belief of working up that muscle chain to improve overall lower extremity strength, balance and stability.
To keep your knees strong and healthy for your daily activities and sports, we recommend the following 5 physical therapy knee exercises:
Straight Leg Raise-Lying on your back, keep one knee bent with your foot flat on the floor. Tighten the knee of the straight leg and lift it up to the height of your bent knee. You will feel your quads and hip flexors working! Keep your pelvis still by engaging your abs. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.
Bridge- Lying on your back with both knees bent, feet hip bone distance apart. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips as high as you can. Try to lift your toes off the floor and put weight into your heels. This will increase the work on your hamstrings and glutes. Lower the hips down just to tap before lifting again. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.
Ball/Wall Squats- Place a stability ball between your low back and a wall. Step forward a couple of feet, keeping your feet hip bone distance apart. Bend at your hips and knees to bring your thighs almost parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and your knees lined up over, not in front of, your ankles. Squeeze your glutes to straighten back up to your start position. This targets your quads and glutes!
Step Ups- You can start with a 6 inch step and then increase the height using a sturdy box, no higher than the height of your knee. Start with both feet on the box. Keeping your pelvis level, step back with one foot to tap your toe on the floor and then step back up fully straightening the leg on the step. Focus on keeping your knee tracking over your second toe. This is a great exercise for that vastus medialis muscle for patellar stability. Perform 15-20 step ups, then switch legs.
Lateral Walks- Tie a theraband around your ankles. Squat down slightly, put weight toward your heels and keep your knees over ankles. Step to the side focusing on the outer hip. Keep constant tension in the band. Take 10 steps to the right, then switch to the left. Perform 2 sets.