6 Simple (but Powerful) Exercises to Prevent Runner’s Knee

6 Simple (but Powerful) Exercises to Prevent Runner’s Knee

705 Shares

Runner’s knee sucks. There’s no other way to say it.

You know how debilitating runner’s knee pain can be if you’ve experienced it before.

Every step hurts. It stops runners in their tracks.

Runner’s knee is so prevalent that 1 in 4 physically active people suffers from it* – yikes!

But there are some preventative measures to prevent runner’s knee from happening (or from coming back again), and they’re really pretty easy to integrate into your weekly workout schedule.

 

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and buy it, we’ll receive a commission or other benefit at no additional cost to you. Don’t worry, we only recommend products we love!

 

What is Runner’s Knee?

How to Prevent Runners Knee - what is runner's knee?
Image credit: Alignedmodernhealth.com

Runner’s knee, also known by it’s more scientific name as patellofemoral pain syndrome, refers to pain around the kneecaps that can be caused by running. Although non-runners certainly experience this issue too.

Without getting too science-y, knee pain happens when the patella (knee cap) is misaligned and rubs against things it’s not supposed to (like the femoral groove). This image shows where the pain usually occurs:

How to Prevent Runners Knee-Knee Pain Diagram
Image credit: Vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/runners-knee

Doctors and physical therapists generally agree that muscle weakness is the root cause of runner’s knee. Weak muscles cause various issues, like pelvis misalignment, and that results in the knee cap hitting the sides of the femoral groove because it’s not aligned correctly (which causes the pain behind the knee cap area).

Hip, glute, quad and hamstring weakness are the main culprits.

But before starting a strength training regimen – assess how much pain you’re in now (if any) and read the next section before doing anything. Plus, we always recommend consulting a professional before beginning a strength training plan.

 

Have Knee Pain or Injury Now? Learn to R.I.C.E. First

R.I.C.E. an injured knee
Image credit: Verywellhealth.com

R.I.C.E. is a common acronym among athletes with injuries and stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Runners follow this advice for many muscle-related injuries (but always consult a professional before proceeding with a treatment plan if you have any questions).

Rest: Stop running. Rest for a few days, or even weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Do not start up again too soon or you risk re-injuring yourself. Proper healing is important to runner’s knee recovery!

Ice: My Physical Therapist generally recommends icing for 24-48 hours after the injury. Icing reduces muscle and tissue inflammation by reducing blood flow. Place a bag of ice (or frozen peas) onto the knee for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. After 24-48 hours, some professionals say to switch to heat – it increases blood flow again to start healing the torn and bruised muscle and tissues.

Compression: Use a compression bandage or wear a compression knee brace. Again, this is to reduce and prevent swelling in the knee. Use caution though – don’t wrap the knee too tightly.

Elevation: For the first day or so after the injury, prop your leg up to elevate it higher than your heart to further reduce the swelling. Elevating the injury is best kept to the day of the injury (ie: don’t elevate 5 days later).

It’s always better to rest an injury before getting back out there. Runner’s knee is no exception.

Now let’s talk about how to prevent runner’s knee from happening in the first place.

 

How Can I Prevent Runner’s Knee? Or Stop it from Coming Back?

Exercises to Prevent Runners Knee

As touched on earlier, muscle weakness causes runner’s knee – and studies have linked hip instability especially to runner’s knee. Weak hip muscles cause imbalances that through off your gait and subsequently cause pressure and impact where it shouldn’t be.

But weak hips aren’t the entire story; glutes and hamstrings can contribute to imbalances too.

In fact, a UNC School of Medicine study found:

  • Participants with weaker hamstring muscles were 2.9 times more likely to develop the syndrome that those with the strongest hamstrings
  • Those with weaker quadriceps muscles were 5.5 times more likely

That’s staggering.

And a wake up call for runner’s who neglect strength training.

So in order to prevent runner’s knee from happening (or keep it from coming back), consider integrating the following 6 strengthening exercises into your weekly workout routine.

 

6 Strengthening Exercises

There are endless strengthening options but these 6 are easy, quick, and effective.

 

RELATED: Strength Training for Runners: 8 Easy Moves for Beginners

 

1.) Clamshells

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Clamshells
Image credit: tampastrength.com

Clamshells work the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles (the butt).

Lay on your side with a resistance band above your knees.

Don’t have a resistance band yet? We like the Limm Resistance Band Exercise Loops because they’re under $10 and have 5 different difficulty levels from Easy to Very Hard.

Next, make sure your hips are stacked and knees are aligned, then lift your knee (while keeping your feet together) as shown in the image.

Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps each and gradually increase as you get stronger and they feel easier.

2.) Leg Lifts

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Leg Lifts

Side leg lifts target the side thigh and hip muscles.

Stack your hips vertically and engage your core (abs). Straighten your legs and lift from the hip. Be careful not to put strain on your lower back – properly engage your core and don’t lift your leg too high.

Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps each. Gradually increase when you feel stronger.

 

3.) Glute Bridges

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are our favorite glute exercises!

Lay on your back with your feet hip width apart. Tilt your pelvis towards you so you can engage your glutes (butt muscles) and lift up with the glutes only.

Start with 8-10 reps in a row, and repeat that 2-3 times. Increase reps as it begins to feel easier.

 

4.) Wall Sit

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Wall Sit
Image credit: Anytimefitness.com

Strengthen your quads and hamstrings with the wall sit move.

Many people have a love/hate relationship with this move…it works so well, but it burns too!

Start by holding this position for 20-30 seconds at a time. Repeat 2-3 times. Increase the time to 30-45+ seconds once 20-30 begins to feel easier.

 

5.) Stability Ball Hamstring Move

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Stability Ball Hamstring Move

The hamstrings love this move.

Lay on your back with a stability ball and put your feet on top of the ball. Slowly roll your feet down (as shown in image) and then back to their original position on top of the ball. Go slow and steady – no jerky movements – and keep your core and hamstrings engaged the whole time.

Start with 5-8 reps and repeat 3 times.

 

6.) Half Squats or Full Squats

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Half Squats

 

 

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Full Squats

Runners with knee problems should do this move with caution. If you experience any pain, stop immediately.

Half Squat – Start with a half squat – which looks like the first image shown here. Don’t drop too low, and keep your glutes and quads engaged the whole time. See how that feels. If good, do 8-10 squats and repeat 2-3 times.

Full Squat – this is the move you see in the second image, and is more intense than a half squat.

 

 

4 Stretching Moves – Another Way to Prevent Runner’s Knee

So recap: we know runner’s knee is caused by imbalanced, weak muscles.

But tight muscles cause knee problems too.

That’s why stretching is key to loosening up muscles before and after running. A loose runner is a happy runner. 🙂

The following stretches target the leg muscles (that frequently get tight from running) to prevent runner’s knee. You may recognize these stretches from yoga!

 

1.) Butterfly Stretch

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Butterfly Stretch
Image credit: Newhealthadvisor.com

 

2.) Runners Lunge

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Runners Lunge

 

3.) Downward Facing Dog

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Downward Dog Stretch

 

4.) Pigeon Pose

How to Prevent Runners Knee - Pigeon pose
Image credit: Kristinmcgee.com

 

 

Don’t Forget About Foam Rolling!

Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that helps loosen muscle tightness. You use a foam roller (aptly named) to roll out tight muscles (like glutes, quads, hips and hamstrings!).

Read all about it at The Complete Guide to Foam Rolling for Runners.

How to Prevent Runner's Knee - Foam Rolling for Runners

 

You Might Also Like:

Strength Training for Runners: 8 Easy Moves for Beginners

How to Increase Running Endurance

 

 

Pin this post for later:

Prevent runner's knee from coming back with these simple body weight exercises to strengthen weak muscles that cause knee pain. #running #runningtips #strengthexercises

Did you know weak muscles often cause knee runner's knee? Prevent runner's knee from coming back with these simple body weight exercises to strengthen weak muscles that cause knee pain. #running #runningtips #strengthexercises Prevent runner's knee from coming back with these simple body weight exercises to strengthen weak muscles that cause knee pain. #running #runningtips #strengthexercises Prevent runner's knee from coming back with these simple body weight exercises to strengthen weak muscles that cause knee pain. #running #runningtips #strengthexercisesHave runner's knee? Do these 6 easy exercises to prevent runner's knee and get back to running without pain. #runningtips #running

Prevent runner's knee from happening (or coming back) with these 6 easy exercises. #running #runningtips

Prevent runner's knee from happening (or coming back) with these 6 easy exercises. #running #runningtips

Resources:

*http://www.med.unc.edu/www/newsarchive/2009/november/unc-study-pinpoints-causes-of-2018runner2019s-knee2019

**https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20854077/whats-the-best-solution-for-runners-knee/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: