Are quadricep exercises a no-no if you have arthritis in the knee?

If you have arthritis in the knee you have probably been told you can't do squats & lunges, which are traditional exercises to strengthen the quadriceps (muscles on front of thigh). Yet having strong quadricep muscles can help with the arthritis as  stronger muscles provide better support to the joint. So what can you do?

Knee jointThere are several exercises that you can practice in order to strengthen your quadriceps without harming your knees. Here are some in order of difficulty.

Quad Set

  1. Sit or lie on a bed with the leg as straight as possible. Point the toes to the ceiling and then back towards you. Try and keep them in this position.
  2. Tense the front upper leg muscle and attempt to force the back of the knee downward to touch to surface behind it. Tense the muscle for 10 seconds before releasing. If you want you can put a rolled up towel behind the knee.
  3. Repeat this 10 times and then swap legs.

Straight leg Raise whilst sitting

  1. Sit in a chair tall with good posture, your thighs should be together and your knees bent with feet apart
  2. Straighten and raise one leg.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower your leg.
  4. Repeat this at least 10 times with each leg.

Straight Leg Raise whilst lying

  1. Lie flat on your back either on the bed or the floor with one leg bent and one leg flat
  2. Raise the leg lying flat about 6 inches from the bed/floor making sure the toes stay pointed towards you. When you do this exercise make sure you are engaging (by tensing) the muscle at the front of the leg and keep the leg straight.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly lower your leg
  4. Repeat 10-20 times, start at 10 and work up.

Wall slides.

  1.  Stand against a wall with your back touching it. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
  2. Begin by slowly sliding down the wall, maintaining contact, until you are in seated position.  Your  hips and knees should both  be at 90-degrees, your back flat against the wall, and your heels are on the ground.
  3. Slowly push with the legs and slide up the wall to return to starting position.
  4. Start by doing this 3 times a day, to increase the difficulty of this exercise then when you are in the seated position hold for 5 seconds before sliding back up the wall.

Don't do this exercise if it is consistently painful or if you are hearing crunching or cracking in your knees

If you can add some aerobic work to your routine. Both biking (stationary or regular) and aqua aerobics will raise your heart rate - just be careful you don't use to much resistance or go up steep hills (for biking that is!).

Water makes exercise non-weight bearing and low impact and therefore will not cause pain to the knees when exercising. Aqua aerobics is a great choice for those with arthritis and most council leisure centres offer classes without you needing to be a member.

Before starting any new exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise changes with them.

I hope you have found this article informative. If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise please post a comment. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

Image courtesy of Scottchan /

6 thoughts on “Are quadricep exercises a no-no if you have arthritis in the knee?

  1. I love the water exercise suggestion! It's extremely helpful for anyone with joint issues.

    I have a question about the squats, though. Are they contraindicated for anyone with knee arthritis or is it just an issue when your knee flexes past 90 degrees? I know that for people with knee replacements squats/leg presses are fine as long as the knee doesn't bend more than that 90 degree angle, but I can't remember what we were taught about arthritis.

    Anyway, great blog here! I was just curious about the degrees of flexion in the knee issue.

    1. The reason squats are not recommended with arthritis in the knees is because of the stress they place on the knee joint and many people who have arthritis in the knee will experience pain whilst doing them. By doing the wall slide modification detailed in the post they can still do squats but with reduced stress on the knee joint as body weight is supported by the wall. With the wall slides your knees should not flex past 90 degrees.
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. Pingback:

  3. Pingback:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *