6 movements to strengthen the knees for women over the age of forty

Suffering from knee pain? It can affect you at any age, and it’s not always easy to narrow down the cause. The pain may be due to stress, injury, or a medical condition such as arthritis. It’s also a common complaint: Research from 2019 indicates that one in four people suffer from chronic knee pain. But when you consider that the knee is the largest joint in the body and bears most of your weight, this statistic comes off as less surprising. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s irreversible — gentle strengthening exercises at home can help combat the pain.


If you have osteoarthritis, are recovering from an injury, or are experiencing generalized knee pain from joint stress, exercise is a very effective way to reduce pain. why? Strong muscles around the knee help absorb shock and reduce stress on the joint. When done correctly, these exercises also prevent further injuries. Of course, strengthening the movements is only one piece of the puzzle—your doctor may recommend additional types of treatment to improve your symptoms. However, setting aside 10 minutes out of your day to exercise those muscles is a great place to start.


To make sure you’re doing the right movements and doing them right, we reached out to Dr. Ramy Hashish, PhD, DPT, who curated a customized knee-strengthening routine for women over 40. Keep reading to learn the five exercises he recommends.

Note: Talk to a doctor or physical trainer before attempting these exercises. If you feel pain while performing any of these movements, stop immediately and speak with your doctor.

Meet our expert.

Ramy Hashish, PhD, DPT, expert in body performance and injuries. He is also the founder of the National Institute of Biomechanics and has been appointed as an expert witness on more than 1,000 occasions, examining injuries in sports, workplace, automobile, and airline accidents. You can follow Dr. Hashish on TikTok (@injuryexpert) or on Instagram (@dr.ramihashish).

1. Glute Bridge

“Bridges help strengthen the gluteal muscles and extend the hip flexors, improving stability and strength around the pelvis,” explains Dr. Hashish. “Inadequate pelvic strength, stability, and motion can lead to compensatory—and harmful—movement patterns in the knee.” In other words, weak muscles around your pelvis can cause you to overcompensate by walking and moving in unhealthy ways, leading to more knee problems and a higher chance of injury. Here are Dr. Hashish’s instructions on how to do a gluteal bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with your hands on your chest with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
  2. Lift your buttocks off the floor, engaging your glutes.
  3. Slowly lower your buttocks to the floor.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Bonus challenge: Single-leg gluteal bridge. “Lifting one leg off the ground and incorporating a straight leg raise helps strengthen the quadriceps, thus improving strength and stability around the knee joint,” says Dr. Hashish. To do: Lift one leg off the ground as you complete a glute bridge. Repeat five times on one leg, then five times on the other leg.

2. Hamstring curls

“Standing hamstring curls strengthen the hamstrings of the leg that is doing the twisting, thus improving the strength and stability of the knee joint,” says Dr. Hashish. “It also enhances hip and knee strength and stability on the standing leg.” How do:

  1. Stand with your feet parallel, about hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your right leg at the knee, bend your leg up toward your buttocks. Lower it back to the ground.
  3. Repeat 10 times on your right leg and 10 times on your left leg.

Bonus challenge: Use ankle weights to increase resistance. (A 2- to 3-pound ankle weight should do the trick.)

3. Straight leg raise

“The prone straight leg raise helps strengthen the muscles in the back of the leg—namely, the hip extensors (i.e., butt) and the hamstring muscles,” says Dr. Hashish. Why strengthen the glutes if they control hip movement? It’s all about helping your knees indirectly. “Incorrect hip movement and insufficient hip strength can expose the knee to harmful positions and movements,” he explains. “Strength in the hamstrings helps you properly bend the knee and stabilize the knee joint.” How do:

  1. Lie on your stomach, legs straight, arms bent, palms resting on the floor in front of your head. (You can rest your head on the back of your hands to reduce pressure on your neck.)
  2. Keeping your knee straight, lift your right leg as far as you can, your stomach still flat on the floor.
  3. Slowly lower your right leg to the ground.
  4. Repeat 10 times on the right leg and 10 times on the left.

4: Side line with tape

says d. Hashish: “The side ligament walk is an excellent exercise that targets the muscles of the side of the hip joint.” “If these muscles are weak, it can cause the knees to drop inward, affecting their stability and putting them at greater risk of injury.” While this exercise requires a strap, keep in mind that exercise bands are relatively inexpensive and available at Amazon, Walmart, Target, and just about any store that carries exercise equipment. How do:

  1. Place the belt below your knees and stand up straight, with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees slightly so that you are in a partial squat.
  3. Step horizontally to the right side (right foot goes first, then left foot follows).
  4. Keep going to the right until you feel a burning sensation in your right buttock (that slight burning sensation). This is usually after about 8 to 12 side steps.
  5. Lean to the left until you feel fatigue in your left buttock.

Note: For thicker bands (with greater resistance), you have the option of placing the band above your knees.

5. Straight leg raise

“Upright straight leg raises help strengthen the muscles in the front of the leg — which are the quadriceps and quadriceps (i.e., the front thigh) muscles,” says Dr. Hashish. “Adequately strengthening the quadriceps is necessary to stabilize the knee joint, as well as to ensure that the knee joint is properly aligned.” How do:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Keeping your knee straight and your foot bent (rather than pointed), lift your right leg up as high as you can.
  3. Slowly lower your right leg to the ground.
  4. Repeat 10 times on your right leg and 10 times on your left leg.

6. Wall squatting

“The wall sit is a dynamic lower-body exercise that targets the muscles throughout the hip and knee, with a particular focus on the glutes and quads,” says Dr. Hashish. It’s a very functional exercise, he adds, which means it improves daily movement. “We do squatting-like activities throughout the day—getting out of bed, getting in or out of a chair, picking something up off the floor, or getting in our car,” he explains.

In addition, wall squats are a classic “finishing” move because they increase muscle endurance. This endurance lowers the risk of injury—because, as Dr. Hashish points out, “we’re more likely to get injured when we’re fatigued.” How do:

  1. Lay your back against a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down, letting your back slide against the wall.
  3. Return to a squatting position.
  4. Repeat the movement 10 times.

Bonus challenge: Keep sitting against the wall. Squat down into a seated position, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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