Knee pain can be helped by targeted muscle strengthening for the gluteals, quadriceps and core. Following are some of our favorite exercises we give our more advanced patients. Disclaimer: if any of these exercises irritate your knee pain, you should stop and seek help from a PT to further guide you on what the best home exercise you can do at your current state in pain and progress.
PT favorite exercise #1: The Power of Penguin
Sidesteps with a resistance band around either your lower thighs or your ankles are a classic exercise to strengthen your hips and gluteal (buttock) muscles, which helps stabilize your knees and offload your back. Keep your core tight and swing your leg out to the side without letting it drift forward.
They come in different variations, and the classic upright version is often called “Penguins”. When performed correctly and in optimal alignment, this exercise helps not only strengthen your hips, but also your all-important core and leg muscles. It also gives your entire leg and ankle muscles a good work out, as these muscle groups are dynamically stabilizing with your steps to each side. This can help reduce knee pain, hip pain, back pain.
PT favorite exercise #2: Skaters
Another variation is called Skaters, and they have an additional toning effect on your thigh muscles. They are also fun! They are essentially sidesteps stepping forward with their feet pointed out to the side. Make sure you keep your knee and ankle aligned, and avoid your knee from caving inward with this.
PT favorite exercise #3: Monster walks
Once Penguins and Skaters become too easy, and after your PT has ensured you’re doing well with squats and hip hinges, you may graduate to Monster Walks. They combine the beauty of hip strength with the incredible benefits of all-around gluteal strength and core strength. Just make sure your knees and hips are aligned, back straight and core tight during the exercise. Keep your torso still and gliding, for an added progression to this exercise.
By the way, If you have been told you have “smiling patellae”, Penguins can help fix those! Smiling patellae are kneecaps that are drifting inwards, towards each other when you are standing upright. They can be caused by weak hip abductor muscles, suboptimal joint alignment of the hips and/or knees, and they can be improved with good form and targeted exercises.