5 Best Exercises for Knee Pain

by | Jul 30, 2015 | Exercise Tips, Knees & Hips, Lower Body

Did you know that knee pain can be the result of limitations at the ankle or hip? Said best by Gary Gray, founder of the Gray Institute:  “The knee is caught in the middle with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide”.  The knee has no choice but to tag along after the foot with each step or follow the hip as we turn.

Being “caught in the middle,” the knee has no choice but to help the hips or ankles if they lack the necessary flexibility or strength to complete the desired task. However, each time the knee has to give a little extra bend or twist, it can lead to overuse, injury or pain. 


2 Simple Steps to Determine if Your Ankles and Hips are Causing Knee Pain


  1. Step one: Mobilize.  Do simple exercises that get mobility back into the ankles and hips.
  2. Step two:  Strengthen.  Specifically the muscles above and below the knee. Let’s take a look at some knee friendly exercises to reduce pain and stiffness.

The pool is a great place to start your training.  You do not need to know how to swim or have any special equipment.  The buoyancy of water minimizes the effects of gravity, which is particularly beneficial when experiencing knee pain.


standing in water

Getting Started


In The Water

Stand in chest-deep water and, as you progress, increase strength by moving to shallower water.


  1. At Wall Foot Reach, For Flexibility
  • At the pool wall, begin in a push-up position with both heels down. Lift one leg.
  • Reach the foot toward the wall (repeat 5x)
  • Next, reach the foot right and left (repeat 5x)
  • Finally, reach the foot around, turning right and left (repeat 5x)

Perform on both sides of the body.  Click here for visual demonstration of the foot reach exercise for flexibility.


  1. Leg Swing, For Strength and Balance
  • Begin standing on one leg (knee is soft).  If needed, hold a pool wall for balance.  Swing the opposite leg in a very small range of motion:
  • Front to back (repeat 5x)
  • Right to left (repeat 5x)
  • Right and left rotation (repeat 5x)

Perform on both sides of the body.


  1. Squat, For Flexibility and Strength
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart
  • Press the hips behind while reaching both hands in front. Imagine like you are sitting into a chair (repeat 5x)
  • Continue, but imagine the chair is moving from right to left each time you sit (repeat 5x on each side)

Coach Tip: If the pressure is too much on your knees, move a little deeper.  Chest deep water loads only 25% of your body weight on your joints, whereas in waist deep water, load bearing increases to 50%.


On Land

Compliment your water exercises with a simple land routine. These exercises can be done intermittently throughout the day to reduce knee pain by keeping the lower body mobile and strong.


  1. Hip Rock, For Flexibility
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Press the hips back, rocking back to front (repeat 5x)
  • Slide the hips right to left, rocking side to side (repeat 5x)
  • Rotate the hips right and left, turning right to left (repeat 5x)

Coach Tip:  Soften the knees and move in a range that feels good. If you like this exercise, try our Total Body Mobility land routine for more progressions.


  1. Seated Foot Slide, For Strength
  • Begin in a seated position with both feet on the ground. Under the working leg place a paper plate, or even a piece of paper will do.  Slide your foot on the floor:
  • Front to back (repeat 5x)
  • Right to left (repeat 5x)
  • Circle clockwise (repeat 5x) and counter-clockwise (repeat 5x)


Dive Deeper


Get these workouts and much more inside Wavemakers. We focus on performing moves that are natural for your body, which means you’ll be less likely to injure yourself and you’ll be much more likely to see bigger, faster, and better results.

If you experience knee pain, I invite you to try my 28-day Everyday Mobility program, ideal to help improve how you move and get you out of pain for good.


Laurie Denomme

Laurie Denomme

an exercise coach dedicated to helping you move better and be your best everyday.

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