As lightweight and unassuming as they are, resistance bands pack a big punch when it comes to boosting knee strength. A single, low-cost band adds life and color to any workout, and it's all you need to beef up the muscles that surround and support your knee. Focus on your hips, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves, all of which play a role in knee function. Building strength in those muscles is your ticket to increased stability, greater agility and reduced risk of injury,
Warm up with 10 minutes of general cardio activity, such as brisk walking, running, skipping rope or jumping jacks. When you break a light sweat, perform a set of dynamic lower-body stretches. Lateral lunges, knee lifts and butt kicks are all great options for warming up your legs and preparing them for resistance training.
Stand with your feet slightly apart and tie a band around your thighs near your knees. Place your hands near your chest and tighten your abs. Step to the right so your legs are hip-width apart and bend into a squat, allowing your buttocks to jut backward slightly. Lower your hips until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Hold briefly, and then return to an upright position, drawing your left foot toward your right. Keep your stance sufficiently wide to prevent the band from falling. Travel four to six times to the right and then repeat to the left -- that's one set. Complete a total of one to three sets, directing your hips, knees and toes to the front throughout the exercise.
Sit on the floor with your feet extended in front of you and your feet flexed. Straighten your back, center your head over your spine and press your shoulders down and slightly back. Loop the middle of the band around the sole of your right foot and pull back on the ends of the band until it’s quite taut. Keeping your right knee straight, gently press the ball of the foot forward, contracting the calf while pushing against the band’s resistance. When the ankle and foot are fully extended, hold for several seconds, and then return the foot to a flexed position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for a total of one to four sets and then switch to your left leg.
Sit on a firm stable chair with your feet on the floor in front of you. Tie one end of the band to one of the chair’s back legs and attach the other end to your right ankle. The band should be quite taut. Rest your hands on your thighs, straighten your back and tighten your abs. Slowly draw your right foot forward and upward, pulling on the band and straightening the knee. Hold the position briefly and then relax the foot down to the floor. Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times for a total of one to four sets and then switch to your left leg. Avoid locking the working knee.
Anchor one end of the band to a stationary object, such as the leg of a couch. Stand facing the object and attach the free end of the band to your right ankle. Back away from the object until the band is taut. Straighten your back, tighten your abs and bend your knees slightly. Place your hands on your hips for balance. Slowly bend your right knee and draw the foot back and upward toward your right buttock, working against the band's resistance. Keep your torso upright and your chin level. Hold and then relax the leg briefly. Repeat the hamstring curl 10 to 15 times for a total of one to four sets. Switch to your left leg.
Items you will need
- Resistance band
- Firm, stable chair
- Stationary object, such as the leg of a couch
- Choose a band that matches your current fitness level, and always check the band for signs of damage before use. Don't use a band that has small tears or thin, worn areas.
- When attaching the band to your leg, wear socks to prevent chafing. Smooth out the band so it lies flat against your limb.
- Stretch the major lower-body muscle groups after working with the band. Failure to do so can result in soreness, tightening and reduced flexibility.
- Exercises should not be painful. If you experience knee pain when exercising, stop immediately. Check your form. If pain persists, speak to your doctor.
- If you have injured your knee in the past or have knee problems, discuss the appropriateness of specific exercises with your doctor or physical therapist.
- American Council on Exercise: What Exercises Are Best to Strengthen My Knees?
- PhysicalTherapist.com: Solving Anterior Knee Pain
- Strength and Power Training; Harvard Health Publications
- The Scientific and Clinical Application of Elastic Resistance; Phillip Page and Todd S. Ellenbecker
- American Council on Exercise: Standing Hamstrings Curl
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images