Our legs keep us moving all day long – at home, at work, and in the community. We walk up and down steps, get into and out of cars, load and unload groceries, and get chores done around the house. This can actively cause knee pain.

The lower body plays a vital role in our functional independence. Therefore, when you experience knee pain or weakness in the legs, it can affect your everyday life.

Building Lower Body Strength for Knee Pain

Many different exercises build lower body strength and maintain motion at the joints. You can perform these exercises in a variety of ways while using:

  • Free Weights – like dumbbells or barbells
  • Bodyweight – no equipment necessary
  • Machines – like you would find at a gym
  • Resistance Bands – portable elastic bands

Building and maintaining lower body strength is important to your everyday life. And each of these strength-training variations offers its own benefits and adds a unique challenge to your exercise routine.

So what if you’d like to build some lower body strength but don’t have access to a gym or strength training equipment? You can still take care of your knees and take steps to avoid pain in your patella or meniscus using your own body weight.

Top 3 Lower Extremity Exercises (*no equipment needed)

Here are three highly effective lower extremity exercises that you can do with no equipment. These exercises might seem simple, but they will each give you an incredible return on your fitness investment.

1. Squat

  • Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Begin to lower your body by sending your hips back, like you’re taking a seat in a chair.
  • Keep your feet in contact with the floor with most of your weight in your heels.
  • Once your thighs are about parallel with the floor, rise back up to the starting position.
  • Try to keep your core tight to provide some extra support and protection for your lower back.

Safety Tip: If you find that it’s hard to balance, try squats while standing in front of a chair or couch.

2. Lunge

  • Begin by stepping forward with one foot.
  • Keep the shin on the forward leg vertical and avoid leaning forward.
  • Try to keep your front knee from bending in front of your toes as you lower your back knee toward the ground.
  • Return to the starting position by stepping the feet back together.
  • Start your next lunge by stepping your opposite foot forward and continue lunging on alternating sides.

Safety Tip: if you have knee pain, a reverse lunge may be a better fit for you. Reversing the direction of the lunge helps take some of the pressure off your knees, making it more comfortable to perform. Rather than lunging forward, in a reverse lunge, you change the direction of your movement by taking a big step backward. Again, try to keep your forward knee from bending in front of your toes as you lower your back knee toward the ground.

3. Step-Up

  • Stand facing a step.
  • Step up onto the step with your right foot and bring your left foot up to meet the right.
  • Stand tall.
  • Step back down with your right foot and again bring your left foot to meet your right.
  • Repeat, this time leading with your left foot.
  • During this exercise, try to look forward as much as possible rather than down at your feet.

If you’re new to step-ups, start by using a step at home. Over time, you can make this exercise more challenging by gradually increasing the height of your step. If you happen to have access to a stair stepper or climber, you can slowly add resistance levels, as well.

Safety Tip: If it’s hard to maintain balance when doing this exercise, use a bottom step for step-ups and not a top step.

By performing these three exercises regularly, you’ll build strength in the primary muscle groups of your lower body, including the quads and glutes. You’ll also promote strength and healthy movement in your knees.

If you’re looking for some guidance on how to manage knee pain or weakness in the lower body, get in touch with our team at Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation by calling 570-208-2787.