Comprehensive research has shown that over 1/3 of the population will develop knee pain and or Osteoarthritis at some stage in their lifetime.


In our complete article series, we showed why this is the case, going deep into exactly what causes Osteoarthritis and associated knee pain.


knee pain Prevalence in Australia

The Prevalence of Osteoarthritis in the Australian Population [CREDIT: AIHW 2019]

At MTP Health, we specialise in helping people avoid knee pain, allowing them to move better and be free from pain for good. Today we want to share some basic exercises to strengthen the knee. We will share with you the reasons why they work to help you begin to improve the way you move in order to start getting rid of your knee pain.


They will go a long way to helping you feel healthy and pain-free while teaching you fundamental movement skills that will have a positive impact on your overall quality of life.


You will notice that we go into quite a bit of detail with each of these exercises. In our experience, when it comes to getting a benefit from exercise, the devil is absolutely in the detail. Because of this, we would absolutely recommend that you watch each video in-depth to understand ‘why’ each exercise is programmed and ‘what’ the purpose of it is. Once you understand this, you will never forget it yet most importantly you will begin to see the relevance of these exercises to your daily life. After finishing this article and mastering the exercises within, you will never look at movement the same!


Why You Have Knee Pain

First of all, to make sure that you are able to get the most out of the 6 exercises we want to give a brief idea of why the knee pain you’re experiencing exists in the first place. The graphic below summarises the 3 main areas that equate to knee pain.

The key to this understanding is that your knee pain is simply a response of the brain to a perception of threat. Once we start to re-educate the brain and teach the body that there is no threat, then the pain will start to dissipate. This often means controlling a number of factors that are often associated with pain, from healthy thought patterns to healthy tissues to overall healthy lifestyle factors. Below, you can see how we aim to address all of these factors in our in-person knee program.

The MTP knee pain Improvement Pillars

How We Aim Address the Main Reasons Behind Knee Pain

The Movements

  1. Glute Bridge Activation
  2. Terminal Knee Extension (TKE)
  3. Hip Hinge
  4. Calf raise
  5. Step Up
  6. Sit To Stand

Chances are you have tried one or more of these exercises in the past. Yet what we can almost guarantee is that you haven’t been optimising these exercises to get the maximum benefit that you can out of them. As movement specialists, our job is to work with surgical precision in order to break down the execution of movement in order to elicit the largest benefit possible. In today’s case, that benefit will be helping you to move pain-free!

By watching the links above, you will get a quick snapshot of the exercises to get an idea of what needs to be done. To get a thorough understanding of each exercise, pay extra attention to each video below, as we break down the what, why and how of each key movement.


Exercise 1: Glute Bridge Activation series [The Hidden Secret To Avoiding Knee Pain]

Our glutes, in particular, the lateral hip muscles that help our glutes to function optimally are one of the muscles that are very commonly underactive when it comes to helping the movement. This can lead to knee issues that arise, due to increased force being placed on the knee through a lack of hip control. This exercise represents the absolute best way to start getting some strength work on the glutes in it’s dominant ranges of motion, in order to start improving our ability to control knee pain.

For this demonstration, we like to use resistance bands that allow us to challenge the harder to target the muscles of our body.

Reps: 10-20 in each of the 3 movements (i.e. knee out in each direction & bridges).

Sets: 1-3

Notes on performance 

  • Aim for heels about in line with the knees & feet hip-width apart.
  • The only part of the body that should be moving throughout is the area of the hips that are working.
  • Try to minimise all movement of the feet & keep them firmly planted on the ground throughout.
  • For a quick demonstration of this exercise, see this video.

Levels & Scaling

  1. Level 1: Purple Band.
  2. Level 2: Orange Band.
  3. Level 3: Grey Band.


Exercise 2: TKE [Loading Your Knee Pain Through Deep Ranges of Motion]

This exercise is one of the best mobility drills that can be done for knee pain.

It helps to activate the most important muscle for the control of our knees, the VMO, by actively moving in our deep ranges of motion (which can often be painful). This is how we truly pursue mobility (as opposed to flexibility) for the benefit of knee pain. The VMO is crucial as it controls our end range extension, which is one of the first ranges of motion to be lost when we suffer from knee issues.

The easiest way to perform this exercise is with a set of resistance bands, that allow external resistance to be generated with your own body.

Reps: 10-20

Sets: 1-3

Notes on performance 

  • Squeeze the front of the thigh as hard as possible to start to feel a burn in the inner portion of the knee.
  • Try to straighten the knee that is working as much as possible.

Levels & Scaling

  1. Level 1: Purple Mini Band.
  2. Level 2: Orange Mini Band.
  3. Level 3: Grey Mini Band.


Exercise 3: Hip Hinge [Changing How You Move To Combat Knee Pain]

Using the hips more is one of the best ways to avoid knee pain by changing how we load our knees, helping us to put less force through the knee, instead using our powerful hip muscles. Through a life of sedentary activity, our hips will lose strength, which causes us to become ‘anterior dominant when we move’. As we get tighter and sit more often, we begin to load the front of our body more, which contributes to our knee pain and sub-optimal loading patterns.


The hip hinge is the best way to remedy the knee pain that is associated with anterior dominance, as it quickly & easily teaches us to use our hips more. This movement is transferable to just about every movement we will do in our daily lives.

Reps: 10-20

  • For your first week start with 10 reps to make sure you master the movement.
  • Progress up to 20 reps for the second week.

Sets: 1-3

  • Start with 1 set for the first 2 weeks.
  • After 2 weeks move up to 2 sets, and finally 3 sets in the 4th week.

Notes on performance

  • The movement should feel like taking a bow.
  • Keep shin vertical with a slight knee bend.

Levels & Scaling

  1. Level 1: To chair, standing close to the wall.
  2. Level 2: Further away from the chair.
  3. Level 3: No chair, tipping forward to max hamstring stretch.

Exercise 4: Calf Raise [Give Your Knee Pain Some Support]

This exercise is absolutely fundamental to our daily movements. Just try to walk around without using your calves! It’s literally impossible.

Because our calves are used so often and are such a strong muscle, we can start to see problems in its overall function when we experience a lot of knee pain. Due to the avoidance of movement that is often associated with knee pain, the calves, which thrive on high load, high-velocity movements, will start to weaken and as a result, will cause problems with how we load our knees.

Reps: 10-20 each side

Sets: 1-3

Notes on performance 

  • Perform while trying to prevent the foot turning out & pushing through the base of the big toe.

Levels & Scaling

  1. Level 1: using two legs on flat ground
  2. Level 2: Using one leg on flat ground with support & adjusting the angle to suit
  3. Level 3: Using one leg with no/ minimal support
  4. Level 4: Doing off the edge of a step

Exercise 5: Step Up [Strengthening Your Hips To Avoid Knee Pain]

The step-up is crucial to giving you options that allow you to be more functional in your daily life.

For many people, stairs pose a serious problem. They fear the pain that is associated with them, in particular going up! Yet, walking upstairs is one of the best things we can do to continue maintaining our function into our old age. It can quickly become one of the biggest things that limits someone’s ability to be functional as they get older & is often the first warning sign of severe knee pain that could have an impact on the quality of life.

This demonstration will show how to start to progress towards pain-free stair climbing.

Reps: 5-15 each side (Find the amount that you can do pain-free)

Sets: 1-3

Notes on performance 

  • Multiple options for stepping is crucial
  • Aim for a vertical shin with minimal knee bend to start with

Levels & Scaling

  1. Level 1: Using support to step up
  2. Level 2: No support to step up on one leg
  3. Level 3: No support to step up on one leg & controlling all the way down
  4. Level 4: Stepping up with one leg and weight in the opposite hand & controlling all the way down

Exercise 6: Sit To Stand [Changing How You Experience Knee Pain Through Better Squatting]

Squatting with Knee Pain can be quite difficult. This exercise is designed to slowly introduce your body to get comfortable with the squat movement, while also providing a new movement pattern to help you in the future.

It’s incredibly relevant to anyone who sits and stands regularly (i.e. everyone) and is a really solid functional marker.

Reps: 5-15

Sets: 1-3

Notes on performance 

  • Sit back into your hips as though you’re sitting into a chair.
  • Control knee bend as per what is comfortable.

Levels & Scaling

  1. Level 1: Using support to sit down and up
  2. Level 2: No support to sit down, but support to stand up
  3. Level 3: No support to sit down or up
  4. Level 4: On one leg, no support to sit down, but support to stand up
  5. Level 5: On one leg, no support to sit down or up


What Will These Exercises Do For My Knee Pain?

By following these basic exercises every other day & progressing using the suggestions we have given, you will be well on your way to starting to drastically improve your knee pain. If you gradually work your way up to performing 3 sets on each of these movements, for 3 days out of the week, over the next 12 weeks, we guarantee you will notice a change in your knee pain.

When doing these exercises, it is incredibly important to remember that each person will be at a different level. If you experience knee pain on any of these movements, or simply find that every single one of these movements are too difficult for you to complete, we’re here to say, that it’s ok. Every day we work with people who struggle with performing these movements because of pain or a lack of function. What we say to these people is that no matter where they’re at with their knee pain, they can always get better. Sure the exercises might require some modifications to suit their specific level, however, the principles behind these 6 key movements remain exactly the same.

We would recommend purchasing some resistance bands in order to complete these exercises over the next 12 weeks. Our personal preference are these, as they allow for many different exercises to be performed, are of high quality and can be assembled anywhere. They’re the exact same bands that we use in our clinic, as well as within our comprehensive online Knee Program.