Your Guide To Strength Training For Runner's Knee

It's all about working the surrounding muscles.

Fitness pros share strength training exercises that help with runner's knee.


Runner’s knee refers to any condition that causes pain around the kneecap, says Steve Yoon, MD, director of The Regenerative Sports and Joint Clinic. It occurs when there’s repeated stress on the knee joint, which can happen if you run, walk a lot, cycle, ski, or play sports.


You might have runner’s knee if you experience a dull ache around or behind your kneecap or if your knee grinds or pops, says Yoon. He recommends stopping any activity that causes knee pain so that you can rest, ice the area, and prevent further wear and tear.


Dedicated strength training that focuses on the hip, gluteal, and hamstring muscles can help relieve pain, too. “When these muscles are strong and flexible, they help immensely in transferring the burden off [of] the knees,” Yoon says. Here’s how to get started.


Side Steps

Trainer James Beitzel says these isolate the hip muscles to keep you stable while running.

- Stand feet shoulder-width apart.

- Place resistance band around the top of one foot.

- Step out to the side, keep tension in the band.

- Step 10 to 15 feet, repeat 3x per side.


Banded Side Clams

Beitzel says this exercise works the glutes.

- Lie on side, knees bent 90 degrees, hips at 45 degrees.

- Put a light resistance band around top of knee.

- Push bottom knee into floor, lift top one to open knees.

- Keep back stable.

- Do 15 to 25 reps, 3x.


Single Leg Step Downs

Beitzel says this move fires up the glutes and hips.

- Stand to the side with your left foot on a step.

- Slowly lower right foot until it lightly touches ground.

- Keep right hip elevated.

- Return to start.

- Do 12 to 15 reps, 3 sets on each side.


Single-Leg Dead Lift

Beitzel says to use a kettlebell for this deadlift.

- Stand on one leg, knee slightly bent.

- Hold kettlebell in opposite hand of supporting leg.

- Hinge at hips, lower weight.

- Engage glutes and hamstrings as you return to start.

- Do 15 reps, 3x.


Straight-Leg Raise

Physical therapist Dallas Reynolds, PT, DPT says this strengthens the hip flexors.

- Lie on your back, one knee bent 90 degrees.

- Engage thigh to raise other leg straight up to level of opposite knee.

- Hold 2 seconds, then slowly return.

- Do 15 reps, 3x.


Knee Extensions

Reynolds says this one strengthens the quads.

- Sit up in a chair.

- Keep your thigh stationary as you extend your knee until leg is straight.

- Engage quad and thigh.

- Hold for 3 seconds.

- Slowly return to start.

- Do 15 reps, 3x on each side.

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Hamstring Curls

This move targets the backs of your knees, says Reynolds.

- Stand near a counter that’s waist- or chest-level.

- Slowly bend a knee, moving your heel toward your glute.

- Hold for 3 seconds, slow return to start.

- Do 15 reps, 3x on each side.


Wall Squats

Reynolds says this exercise addresses the hips and knees.

- Start with back against a wall.

- Move feet about 8-10 inches away from wall.

- Slowly slide your back down until your knees are bent no more than 90 degrees.

- Hold 2 seconds, return to start.

- Repeat 3x.

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Still have runner’s knee? Consider visiting a physical therapist. “They are skilled and knowledgeable in creating custom strengthen exercises for your specific needs,” says Reynolds. They can also recommend stretches that’ll keep your knees healthy.

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