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Strong, healthy, feel-good knees are just a morning routine away! Next time you avoid getting out of bed because of those aching knees, try these 3 knee exercises from bed.
Wincing before standing up… Finding instant relief when sitting down… Needing more than just a little rest after a long walk… we all experience knee pain differently, but one thing remains constant: our aching knees won’t go away.
And while it’s easy to sigh and curse old age, that doesn’t have to be the end to our story. Knee pain isn’t inevitable for everyone.
Some adults are able to live life (even run) pain-free! Shocking, I know. But it’s true.
Those same people with strong and pain-free knees aren’t simply resting all the time.
They’re staying active to support their knee health, and you should be too. Keep reading to see how this almost forgotten type of exercise can help rejuvenate your knees.
Our knees are simple joints surrounded by some of the largest muscles in the body.
This includes the quadriceps (front thigh), hamstrings (back thigh), abductors (outer thigh), and adductors (inner thigh).
These muscles work together with other ligaments and tendons to support the knee joint and keep it stable.
However, when there is an imbalance in these muscles, ligaments, and tendons, knee pain arises.
Rest, ice, and constant visits to the doctor often seem like their only options. But they can only go so far…
Fortunately, research has discovered another way of strengthening our knees: Isometric Exercise aka gentle knee exercises from bed.
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Why You Should Be Doing Isometrics for Better Knee Health
Isometric exercises are those where the joints don’t move but require you to hold a challenging position for a period of time.
These types of exercises are extremely low-impact and great for rapidly strengthening muscles, as well as supporting tendon and ligament health.
One study tested the strength, pain intensity, and overall function of the knee between two groups suffering from osteoarthritis.
Group A performed isometric exercises 5 days a week for 5 weeks, whereas Group B did not perform any exercise program. The results were conclusive.
Group A increased their strength, reduced their pain sensations, and improved their knee function at the end of the 5th week.
And, their strides were significantly greater than those of Group B. Want to know the best part?
These isometric exercises don’t have to be done in the lab… in a gym… or even on the ground.
Anyone can do these simple exercises from the comfort of their bed. Try these 3 knee exercises from bed each morning for strong, healthy, feel-good knees.
3 Gentle Knee Exercises From Bed
Laying Towel/Pillow Squeezes
While lying down on the bed, bend your knees so that the bottoms of your feet are flat on the bed.
Place a pillow or rolled towel between your knees.
Squeeze your knees together into the pillow for 10 seconds.
Avoid knocking your knees together by slowly squeezing in a controlled manner (about 70-80% effort).
Repeat three times before moving onto the next exercise.
All too often, we find our outer thighs and hips are stronger than the inner portion of our legs… forcing our knees to work overtime to move properly.
This exercise helps to strengthen both the inner thigh and the smaller muscles surrounding the knee, decreasing any possible imbalance our knees could be compensating for.
Seated Towel/Pillow Presses
It’s now time to sit up in bed and extend your legs out straight.
Grab either a pillow or rolled towel. Place the item under one leg, directly behind the knee. Rest your back against the headboard or lean back onto your hands if needed.
While keeping good posture, press your knee into the towel/pillow for 10 seconds before relaxing.
Repeat 3 times on the same leg then switch!
Our quadriceps — or front thigh muscles — play a key role in generating strong knees. By strengthening these thigh muscles, we can reduce the amount of work our knee joints have to do just to stand, walk, or bend.
The seated towel press strengthens these muscles while also providing a nice stretch to the back of legs — the hamstrings!
Seated Leg Raises
Ready to get out of bed and start the day? You’re almost there! Swing your legs over the edge of the bed while sitting as tall as possible.
You may lean back onto your hands or elbows if needed (picture is of this position).
Raise one leg at a time, pointing the toes to the ceiling. Hold the raised position for 10 seconds.
Slowly lower your leg and relax.
Switch legs and perform the same movement, holding for 10 seconds.
Repeat 3 times per leg.
Control is the name of the game with this movement. Having the thigh strength to fight gravity and lift your leg with ease is essential for healthy knees.
This exercise strengthens both the front of the thigh (quads) and the back (hamstring) when done with control.
**NOTE: none of these exercises should be done through pain. While yes, there may be some discomfort from learning a new movement, you should not be gritting your teeth to perform these exercises. Go as far as your body allows.
And ta-da! You’re off to a great start to stronger and healthier knees. Do these knee exercises from bed daily before getting up for the day!
Interested in more exercises to reduce knee pain? Click here.
Wow Todd! I'm new to feelgoodlife and I have been doing the 1st 2 of the 3 exercises in bed for several years in addition to a couple others. I wasn't consistent especially during covid and actually got lazy and stopped which resulted in the return of knee pain. I've learned these exercises need to continue for the rest of my life if I want to be free from knee pain.
Absolutely, Marilyn! Consistency is everything. Thank you for reading, and I hope you continue the exercises to reduce your knee pain.
Hi Todd! I understand that building up the muscles that take stress off of the knees are most important for long term relief, but just wondered what your opinion of knee injections is for short term relief. I don't mean steroids, but the ones that inject a lubricant into the damaged/worn areas to provide some cushioning. Thanks for all of the tips. They really do help a lot.
Cheryl, I’ve seen patients have good results with the lubricating/gel injections for short term relief! Every body reacts differently though and what works for one person may not work for the next. Ultimately it's what your physicians recommends for you.
Really appreciate. You are right on target. Thanks so much..
You're welcome, Bill! Thank you for reading the article!
I purchased your feel good knees program after I was told I needed knee replacement! That was four years ago. No knee replacement. Thank you so much!!
Wow, Kay! That is amazing. I am glad you were able to avoid a knee replacement! Thank you for being so dedicated to the program.
Thank you for actually posting the exercises as advertised. Usually when I open an email for this type of subject, I get a thousand words and no actual exercises. You are very unique in posting helpful instructions just so we that suffer can use your knowledge to help ourselves. Thanks again!!
Absolutely, Mary! I appreciate your feedback!
Looking for ways to strengthen and get more flexibility from my shoulders
Also have knees that get a bit sore at the end of long hike
Doctor says come back in a few years and replace them
I want to be proactive and see if I can improve my strength and hopefully build some cartilage
Hi Mario! Strengthening your knees and using isometric exercises can definitely help your knees. I have helped many in your situation avoid surgery. The exercises in this article are a great place to start. I also have a 6 week Feel Good Knees program that may be a good next step for you! You can find the program over at our shop at feelgoodlifeshop.com. For your shoulder, you can check out these articles: https://www.feelgoodlife.com/healing-frozen-shoulder-syndrome/
Have been having a rocky time lately, so have returned to the beginning!
I am starting again with the basic 3 Knee exercises I can do lying on my bed.
I shall keep on trucking along, making the best use of all these suggested exercises. I am attempting to gather the most suitable for my needs into one cache.
That way I always have a guide to take me forward. I have changed my life already in ability, movement and posture. It doesn’t happen overnight ; it is many years since I attempted anything like this.
So , I thank You most Sincerely and shall keep. ,keeping on. Kind a Regards Cindy
You're not behind, you're not ahead, you're right where you need to be Cindy! You're taking action!!
Thank You Todd, I have been following your exercises from Face book for some time, and find them much more productive than any tried previously, so I look forward to extending my regular routine with these knee exercises.
I have a history of Rheumatoid Arthritis from age seven , (now 80+) smashed both kneecaps in my twenties on two separate occasions, (bits flushed out eventually). Never had surgery. Just plodded on, ?. Osteoarthritis joined in around age 65; have ‘good and bad’ days, depending much on weather conditions. Restricted now due to coro19, so especially pleased with your help. Appreciate your straightforward approach.
Eventually will download onto Computer etc. meantime, grateful for your online help. Thanks so Much Cynthia. ( aka Cindy)
Hi Cindy! Thank you for commenting! I love hearing about how I'm able to help people from afar 🙂 It sounds like your knees have had quite the life but with more to live! Keep up the great work. - Coach Todd
I love these easy exercises to do at night in bed. They are very similar to those of different Levels but in the bed. Thank you for this. I will definitely need to try this at night when my knees bother me.
You're welcome Marlene! I'm glad you found this article helpful!