9 Best And Worst Leg Exercises For Bad Knees (Without Weights)

The exercises I am about to share with you aren’t for treating knee pain – they’re low-impact exercises which won’t make your knee problem worse. That said, this exercises is known to strengthen the knees and even reduce pain.

Note that all knee problems are not the same – some are more severe than others. So listen to your body and stick to exercises you are comfortable with. The worst thing you can do is to train through pain. Stop whenever you feel unusual sharp pain.

This exercises put less strain on the knees and will activate all leg muscles. Do not do high reps – limit your reps to a maximum of 15 per set.


Best Leg Exercises For Bad Knees

1. Step Ups

This a great low-impact exercise for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Use a box lower than your knee height.

How Do It:

  1. Stand a step away from the box then step on the box with one foot.
  2. Straighten the front foot and place the rear foot on the box. Then lower both feet down and repeat the movement.
  3. Do this exercise slowly to avoid hurting yourself.

2. Reverse Lunge

This is an effective lunge variation for strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and the glutes. Unlike the forward lunge, this variation allows you to control alignment as you step backwards. Stepping backwards will also improve your balance.

How Do It:

  1. Stand upright with hands on the side or place them on the waist.
  2. Step backwards with one foot then lower the rear knee until it almost touches the floor – go as low as you feel comfortable.
  3. Perform the exercise slowly to avoid hitting the floor with the rear knee. And be sure the front knee does not go past the toes.
  4. Slowly rise until the front knee is straight, then repeat several times. Do the same number of reps for each leg.

3. Glute Bridges

They activate the glutes, hamstrings, lower back and ab muscles.

How Do It:

  1. Lie flat on your back and place hands on the side.
  2. Bring your calves close to the thighs until the ankles are directly below the knees.
  3. Using the support of your arms – slowly lift your butt off the floor and raise the hips as high as you can. Hold the top position for 2 or 3 seconds and then slowly lower the butt to the floor and repeat.
  4. Performing this exercise on one foot will make it more challenging.

4. Wall Sits

Isometric exercises is too good for the knees because there is no movement. Use a timer to track duration for each set.

How Do It:

  1. Stand a step away from the wall then lean backwards and rest your back on the wall.
  2. Slowly slide downwards until the thighs are parallel to the floor and hold that position as long as you can. Be sure the toes are past the knees when in this position.
  3. If this is too challenging, do wall slides – place a tennis ball on your back or use a smooth wall.
  4. Slide downwards until the thighs are parallel to the floor then slide up until you’re upright and repeat.

5. Standing Calf Raises

This exercise will help build the stubborn calf muscles. Note that the calf muscles support the knees so strengthening them will increase knee strength. This is a low impact exercise which means you can do it daily.

How Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet some inches apart and keep the legs straight.
  2. Raise the heels as high as you can – only the balls of the feet and toes should be on the floor.
  3. Hold that position for 3 – 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
  4. If this exercise is too easy for you, perform it on one leg. You’ll activate the calves more.
  5. Feel free to hold on to a table or pool for support if you lack balance.

6. Seated Leg Extensions

This exercise mainly targets the quadriceps.

How Do It:

  1. Sit upright on a chair and keep the knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Slowly lift one leg and straighten it as you engage the quadriceps.
  3. Keep leg straight for 3 seconds as you tighten the quadriceps.
  4. Slowly lower the leg to starting position and repeat. Complete reps for one leg then switch.

7. Box Squats

You need a sturdy chair or a box to perform this exercise. Do the exercise slowly to activate the quadriceps fully.

How Do It:

  1. Stand a step away from a chair, facing away from it and keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend the hips and lower yourself until the butt rests on the chair. And then slowly rise without pushing yourself off the chair.
  3. You’ve to control your motion to benefit from this exercise. It won’t be helpful if you do it fast.

8. Standing Hamstring Curls

These are a simple exercise and most beginners should be able to do it. And it can also be done while lying on the stomach. It targets the hamstrings and glute muscles. Hamstring curls do not put any pressure on the knee and they are one of the best exercises as someone with severe knee pain.

How Do It:

  1. Stand on one foot – grab a table or a wall for support.
  2. Bend the other leg backwards and bring it as close to the thigh as possible.
  3. Hold the top position for 2 seconds then slowly lower it to starting position and repeat.
  4. You can too perform this exercise while lying.
  5. Lie flat on your stomach then bend both feet and bring them close to the thighs.
  6. And then slowly straighten it and repeat.

9. Side-Lying Leg Lifts

These exercise mainly works the adductor and hip muscles. The adductor muscles are responsible moving the thighs side of the body. Strengthening it will improve your movement and athletic performance.

How Do It:

  1. Lie sideways and keep the body straight. Stretch out the bottom hand and place your head on it.
  2. Raise the top leg as high as possible and then slowly lower it to starting position to complete the rep.
  3. Repeat these movement several times and do the same number of reps for each leg.
  4. You can wear an elastic band on the thighs to make the exercise more challenging.