How to Build Leg Muscle With Bad Knees – 7 Exercises

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If you want to how to build leg muscle with bad knees, then you will want to read today’s blog post. In this article we are going to give you 8 exercises that can really help you strengthen and build your leg muscles, all while minimising the risk of further injury to your knees.

**Please note: If you are looking to build your leg muscles and your joints are in good condition, then you may want to read my article about how to build leg strength HERE.

There are many reasons why knees, or in fact any other joint in the body can suffer an injury and become very painful. Knee pain can often arise as a result of a torn or sprained ACL (Anterior Crucial Ligament). This is a common knee injury that occurs quite often in people who take part in exercise and contact sports that involves sudden stopping, changes in direction, and hard landings etc. Once these ligaments in the knees are damaged, it can really make it a challenge to perform your leg workout without severe pain.

It is not uncommon for very active people to suffer from such injuries from time to time. It is therefore important to know how to adjust your workout to accommodate for these misfortunes whilst you are in recovery.

I am not a doctor, or any medical professional for that matter. It is therefore very important that you consult with your family doctor if you do suffer any injury or ailment. Even if you don’t think that its a serious issue, I recommend seeing your doctor for advice. You could also use the time in the medical appointment to discuss your workout regimen and rehabilitation plan with them while you are there.

You Are Not Alone!

As I have already mentioned, these types of injuries are surprisingly commonly in young people who partake in sports. You a certainly not alone. 

how to build leg muscle with bad knees


The above study found that the knee is the most commonly injured joint, and US emergency rooms see on average 2.5 million sports related knee injuries annually.

The most common ailments with regards to the knee are a sprains or strains, and the largest demographic suffering from sports related knee injuries are 15-24 year males.

However, it goes without saying that despite your age or gender, knee injuries are very common. It is therefore good to know how to develop a work around for your workout if and when an injury arises. 

How Do I Strengthen My Legs With Bad Knees?

In the first instance you should always see your doctor first as I have already said. If your knee is badly injured, then your doctor will be able to give you sound professional advice. He/She will most likely tell you not to exercise your lower body at all while your knee(s) heals. 

Having said that, once your knee has recovered you will want to gradually introduce them back into exercise again with a suitable rehabilitation plan.

You will not yet be able to start lifting weights again with your legs at this point. Once you are fully healed, you will be able to get back into your normal lower body weight training routine. You need to build up to that gradually after a knee injury. 

First, you will want to use low impact exercises so you can condition your knees without risking injuring them again. It is therefore probably best that you don’t subject your lower joints to high impact exercises, or exercises involving heavy weights again just yet.

The following 7 exercises that I have outlined below are perfect for training your entire core and lower body. The exercises will also allow you to start reconditioning your knee joints as well.

Top 7 Exercises For Leg Strengthening With Bad Knees

Banded Lateral Walks

Banded lateral walks are perfect for easing your lower body into a workout regimen again.

This exercise mainly targets your bum and hip muscles (gluteus maximus and hip external rotators). However, while your moving leg is off the ground, your other leg must provide stability to the whole body. This mans that the muscles surrounding your knee will be getting a gentle workout as well and they be start to become re-conditioned to resistance training again. 

  1. Loop the resistance band around the top of your ankles.
  2. Adopt the quarter squat position.
  3. Take a giant step to the right with your right leg.
  4. Slowly lift your left foot off the ground and move it to the right until your foot is next your right foot.
  5. Repeat this until you run out off room, and then go in the opposite direction to the left.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge exercise is great for opening your hips, working your hamstrings and strengthening your core. Again, this movement doesn’t put too much strain on the knees, yet is still works the knee joints on a lighter level. They will be taking some, but not all of your body weight as you lift your hips off the ground. 

  1. Lay flat on your back with your feet hip width apart and your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Contract your glute and core muscles in order to lift your hips of the ground. Stop when your pelvis is lined up with your knees.
  3. Pause for a second and then slowly lower your hips back to the ground.
  4. Do this about 10 times for about 3-4 sets.

Single Leg Deadlift

The single leg deadlift works your core, glutes, hamstrings and to some extent your knee joints. This is a slightly more advanced exercise, and is extra challenging because you are stood on one leg for a prolonged period of time. This means that almost your whole body is involved in maintaining stability.

  1. Stand with you feet together and hold a weight or kettle bell in your left or right hand.
  2. Shift your weight to the leg on the side of your body opposite to the side your hand is holding the weight.
  3. Keep a slight bend in the leg that is taking the weight of your body. Now lift the other leg behind your body while hinging at the hips. Make sure you bring your torso parallel to the floor, and lower the weight toward the floor.
  4. Pause at the top and squeeze your butt muscles.
  5. Keep your core tight and slowly return to the start position.

Donkey Kicks

Don’t underestimate the simplicity of this one! Donkey kicks are great for hamstrings and glutes.

  1. Position yourself on all fours with your hands flat on the floor. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Activate your glutes and hamstrings and lift your left leg in the air while keeping your knee bent.
  3. Perform all your reps with the left leg and then do the same with the right leg.

Seated Leg Extensions

Seated leg extensions are great for someone who is unstable on their feet, or for someone who has more severe mobility challenges. The exercise will also help strengthen the quadriceps and loosen up the knee joint.

  1. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back flat against the chair.
  2. Slowly lift one leg forward straight out in front of you. Don’t lock the leg out fully.
  3. Hold the leg straight for a few seconds before lowering it slowly until your foot is flat on the floor again. 
  4. Repeat with the same leg for the required number of reps.
  5. Now perform the same sequence for the opposite leg.

Seated Heel Raises

This is another great seated exercise for your calve and knee joints. This exercise can be done discreetly making it perfect for doing at your work desk, on public transport, at the cinema, or just about anywhere where you are sat down.

  1. Again, sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands palms down on your legs just above your knees.
  2. Press down gently on your legs with your hands. While doing this, lift your knees up off the floor.
  3. Lift your heels as high as you can and hold them there for a couple of seconds.
  4. Now slowly lower your heels back down to the floor. Repeat this for as many reps as is required.

Dumbbell Deadlifts

Dumbbell deadlifts is another great exercise for butt and hamstring development. This exercise will also promote strength and stability in the knees and hips.

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Don’t lock your knees out fully.
  2. Bend forward at the hips, pushing your bum out and keeping your back straight.
  3. Pause at the bottom of the movement, and then slowly return back to the starting position stood up straight.
  4. Repeat the exercise for as many times is required. About 8-10 per set is a good number to aim for.

In Summary

So there you have it! 7 exercises to not only get your recovering knee back into action, but your entire lower body as well.

Remember to always consult a doctor regarding medical ailments and for advice on how to get back into exercise after an injury. I know I keep saying it, but it is important. I am not a medical professional.

Also, don’t try to get straight back into a full blown lower body weight training program after an injury. Take your time and try the above exercises until you and your healthcare professional feel that you can start stepping things up a bit more.

All of the above exercises can be done almost anywhere. You don’t need a gym, or tons of equipment. So don’t get down about your injury.

**Don’t Forget: If you are looking to build your leg muscles and your joints are in good condition, then you may want to read my article about how to build leg strength HERE.

Get up of the sofa and give these exercises a try for yourself.

Best of luck!

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