10 Best Leg Exercises For Bad Knees

Discover the ultimate guide to strengthening your legs while caring for your knees! Explore the top 10 leg exercises designed to support and protect bad knees, helping you achieve strength and mobility!


Got bad knees but still want to stay active and strong? You’re in the right place! Dealing with knee pain doesn’t mean you have to give up on leg workouts altogether. In fact, incorporating the right exercises can help strengthen the muscles around your knees, providing support and stability while minimizing discomfort. Welcome to the ultimate guide on the “10 Best Leg Exercises For Bad Knees”! Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or someone looking to improve knee health, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into these exercises that will help you build strength, flexibility, and resilience in your legs while being gentle on your knees!

Understanding Bad Knees

Before we jump into the exercises, let’s take a moment to understand what we mean by “bad knees.” Bad knees can refer to various conditions such as osteoarthritis, ligament injuries, or general wear and tear over time. These conditions can cause pain, swelling, and reduced mobility, making it challenging to engage in certain physical activities. However, with the right approach, you can still maintain an active lifestyle while managing knee discomfort.

What Causes Bad Knees?

  • Overuse or repetitive strain
  • Injury or trauma
  • Aging and natural degeneration
  • Poor biomechanics or alignment issues

Now that we have a better understanding of what we’re dealing with, let’s explore the 10 best leg exercises tailored to support and strengthen those troublesome knees!

The 10 Best Leg Exercises For Bad Knees

1. Modified Squats

Squats are a staple leg exercise, but traditional squats can put excessive pressure on the knees. Modified squats, such as half squats or chair squats, are excellent alternatives that reduce strain on the knees while still targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

2. Lunges with Proper Form

Lunges are fantastic for building lower body strength, but incorrect form can exacerbate knee pain. Focus on maintaining proper alignment by stepping forward with your knee directly above your ankle, keeping your back straight, and engaging your core. Reverse lunges or stationary lunges can also be gentler options for bad knees.

3. Step-Ups

Step-ups are a low-impact exercise that effectively targets the quadriceps and glutes while minimizing stress on the knees. Use a stable platform or bench and step up one foot at a time, ensuring controlled movements and maintaining a neutral spine throughout.

4. Leg Press Machine

The leg press machine provides excellent support for bad knees while allowing you to target the major leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Adjust the seat and weight according to your comfort level, focusing on smooth and controlled movements without locking out your knees at the top of the movement.

5. Seated Leg Extensions

Seated leg extensions isolate the quadriceps muscles without putting significant strain on the knees. Sit on a leg extension machine with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, then extend your legs while keeping your back supported against the seat. Avoid fully locking out your knees to prevent unnecessary stress.

6. Hamstring Curls

Hamstring curls strengthen the muscles at the back of the thighs, providing balance and support for the knees. Use a hamstring curl machine or resistance bands to perform this exercise while lying face down or seated, focusing on controlled movements and squeezing your hamstrings at the top of the contraction.

7. Clamshells

Clamshell exercises target the often neglected hip abductor muscles, which play a crucial role in stabilizing the knees. Lie on your side with knees bent and hips stacked, then open and close your top knee like a clamshell while maintaining tension in the hips. This exercise helps improve hip mobility and alignment, reducing strain on the knees.

8. Straight Leg Raises

Straight leg raises strengthen the quadriceps and hip flexors while promoting knee stability. Lie on your back with one leg bent and the other straight, then lift the straight leg towards the ceiling while engaging your core. Keep the movement controlled and avoid lifting too high to prevent strain on the lower back.

9. Wall Sits

Wall sits are a challenging yet effective exercise for building lower body strength and endurance. Lean against a wall with your back flat and knees bent at a 90-degree angle, holding the position for as long as you can. Focus on maintaining proper form and breathing throughout the exercise to maximize its benefits.

10. Swimming

Swimming is a fantastic low-impact exercise that engages the entire body, including the legs, without putting stress on the knees. Whether you’re doing freestyle, breaststroke, or water aerobics, swimming helps improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and joint mobility while providing a refreshing workout experience.

FAQs: Leg Exercises and Bad Knees

Q1: Can I still do squats with bad knees?

Absolutely! Modified squats like chair squats or half squats are gentle alternatives that can strengthen your legs without aggravating knee pain.

Q2: Are there any leg exercises I should avoid with bad knees?

Exercises that put excessive strain on the knees, such as deep squats, high-impact lunges, or leg extensions with heavy weights, should be approached with caution or avoided altogether.

Q3: How often should I do these leg exercises?

It’s essential to listen to your body and start gradually, aiming for 2-3 sessions per week with adequate rest in between. As you build strength and confidence, you can gradually increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts.


Don’t let bad knees hold you back from achieving your fitness goals! With the right exercises and proper form, you can strengthen your legs, improve joint health, and reduce discomfort associated with knee issues. Remember to start slowly, listen to your body, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or underlying conditions. Incorporate these 10 best leg exercises for bad knees into your routine and unleash your leg power with confidence!

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