Rehab Exercises for Runner’s Knee
In this quick video, I demonstrate three runner’s knee exercises. These are some of the many exercises we use to help runners overcome knee pain and ultimately return to running stronger than ever.
Ok, so if you’re currently struggling with knee pain when you run, the first piece of advice I have to give is for you to find a good physio, preferably a running specialist to get it properly checked out and give you some knee strengthening exercises.
You need to know the root cause of your knee pain, and exactly what you’re dealing with before you can effectively build a rehab plan and correct the problem!
Three Simple Runner’s Knee Exercises & Stretches
The video above shows three simple runners knee rehab exercises, that will help you to fix the most common causes of knee pain in runners.
Each of the featured exercises is then broken down in the sections below…
Quadriceps Stretch for Runner’s Knee
One common trait I see in runners who present with classic runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain) or ITB syndrome is tightness in the quads muscles of the front of the thigh.
Tight quads can create imbalances around the patella (the knee cap) and intensify loading at the patellofemoral joint of the knee.
This simple side-lying quads stretch is an easy way to work on reducing this tightness.
Lay on your side and slightly bend your bottom leg to create a more stable base, and help to avoid overly arching your low back. From there reach back and grab the ankle of your top leg and pull your foot towards your butt.
Keep your core engaged and push your hips forward as you perform this stretch, so as to focus the stretch on the front of your thigh, rather than simply arching your back.
Once you can feel this stretch, keep your thighs parallel and hold the position for 30 seconds 3 times each side.
Glute Activation for Runner’s Knee
You’ve probably heard it before, but many of us runners need to learn to use our butt muscles more!
Learning to activate and then subsequently use your gluteal muscles is one particular goal of these runner’s knee exercises and stretches.
The gluteal muscles are so important not just as hip extensors, but also in their role of providing hip stability. If a runner isn’t good at stabilising the standing hip, the knee is usually the joint that pays the price. Often you’ll see this pattern manifest as a hip drop running gait, for example.
Before we move onto an exercise to practice stability on weight bearing, this second exercise will help you engage those butt muscles more effectively!
To begin with, lay on your back with your heels positioned close to your butt and your knees close together.
With a resistance band placed around your knees, push down through your heels and clench your butt as you raise your hips into a bridge position.
Once at the top of the bridge, pull your knees apart against the resistance of the band.
You should feel the muscles around the sides and back of your hips working hard here!
Hold that ‘knees apart’ position for a slow count of 5 and repeat this for 10 repetitions.
Do this once through, to begin with, and over time you can build to 2-3 sets each session.
Before I describe the third of these exercises, it’s important for me to point out that these are just three of a whole host of different exercises that I might use to rehab runner’s knee.
In reality, any effective rehab programme has exercises that progress over time to rebuild your body and address your individual weak links.
Single Leg Mini Squat for Runner’s Knee
So it’s all well and good working on quads mobility and engagement of key muscle groups such as those glutes.
But one vital piece in the knee rehab puzzle is teaching your body to improve control of the knee dynamically when standing on one leg, just as we would be when running. This simple knee strengthening exercise achieves just that.
More on knee stability exercises here:
Standing on one leg on a raised platform, first reach forwards with the swinging leg and touch your heel on the ground in front of you, then slowly reach back and touch your toe on the ground behind you.
This movement of once back and forth constitutes one repetition. You should be aiming to perform 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.
The key here is balance and control. You’ll be working hard around the hip and ankle to provide stability for the knee. Many runners will feel the knee drifting inwards towards the typical ‘knock-kneed’ position. We want to avoid this!
You may well find it helpful to perform this exercise in front of a mirror to monitor the position of your knee throughout the movement.
I hope you’ve found these runner’s knee exercises helpful. Give them a go at home, and remember – if it hurts – stop and get it looked at!