Whether you are knock-kneed or bow-legged, having a knee out of alignment is more than just a cosmetic concern. Over time, this condition may lead to joint pain and discomfort. Try these exercises to strengthen your hip and knee muscles and prevent complications.
Do Squats for a Knee Out of Alignment
As Massachusetts General Hospital explains, maintaining strength in the muscles surrounding the knee joint plays an important part in avoiding a knee out of alignment.
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Read more: Hip Alignment Exercises
For an easy way to target this area, try some mini squats. This exercise activates the quadriceps, a group of four muscles in your thigh that help your knee function properly.
- Stand with your feet turned slightly outward and your legs shoulder-distance apart from one another. Place a chair behind you to help guide the motion.
- Bend your knees slowly while pushing your buttocks backward, like you are lowering yourself into the chair. As you do this, make sure your knees are in good alignment by keeping them over your feet.
- Tap your buttocks on the chair's seat before rising back up to a standing position once again.
- Complete two or three sets of 10 repetitions each.
To correct a knee out of alignment, try focusing on exercises that target your glutes and quadriceps muscles.
Mix in Clamshells
According to a July 2012 systematic review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, one important factor that can predict the development of kneecap pain is an excessive Q-angle. This measurement, which looks at the alignment of your knee as compared to your pelvis, is larger in people with patellofemoral pain syndrome, a common cause of knock-knees.
Bethesda Health recommends the clamshell exercise, which targets the gluteus medius, a muscle on the outside of the hip, as a way to combat poor knee alignment and relieve knee pain.
- Lie on your side with your knees bent and your legs on top of one another. Bring your knees toward your chest so that your ankles and hips are in a straight line.
- Place a resistance band around both legs just above the knees and then slowly raise the top knee toward the ceiling keeping your feet together. The motion should resemble a clam opening.
- When you are unable to open your legs further without rocking backward, hold the position for a second or two before lowering back down again.
- Complete 10 to 25 clamshells before switching to the other leg.
Read more: Exercises for Tightness in My Knee
Add In Step-Downs
Michigan Medicine suggests trying a version of the lateral step-down exercise if you have a knee out of alignment. This technique, which also targets the quadriceps muscle, may help improve the position and tracking of the patella (knee cap) and prevent it from becoming maligned.
- Stand sideways on the bottom step of a staircase with your right leg on the step and the left leg hanging in the air beside it.
- Slowly bend the right knee as you lower your left foot toward the ground. As you do this, make sure that your right knee stays directly over your right foot and that it does not move inwards or outwards.
- Lightly tap your left foot on the ground before straightening your right knee and returning to the starting position once again. A finger touch can be used on a railing for balance, as needed.
- Try two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions before turning around and completing the exercise on the other leg.
Try Some Leg Raises
According to an October 2015 systematic review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercises that strengthen the muscles in your hips and buttocks play an important role in bringing your leg out of the knock-kneed position (called genu valgus) and addressing any knee cap pain caused by this condition.
Michigan Medicine suggests the side-lying leg raise for activating this area. This exercise also targets the gluteus medius muscle and helps pull your knee out of the inward position while evening out the pressure placed on the joint.
- Lie on your side with your knees straight and your legs stacked on top of each other.
- Without allowing your body to roll backward, lift your top leg about 12 inches in the air.
- Hold it there for six seconds before lowering it back down again.
- Complete two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions before flipping over and repeating the exercise on the other leg.
Read more: Knee Pain on the Outside of the Knee
Make a Bridge
Massachusetts General Hospital also recommends the bridging technique for poorly aligned knees. This exercise, which targets the gluteus maximus muscle in your buttocks, can be done on the ground or while lying in a firm bed. It involves making your body into a shape resembling a bridge.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your legs held hip-width apart.
- Begin by squeezing your stomach muscles and then lift your butt in the air as high as comfortably possible. Make sure you're not holding your breath as you do this.
- Hold this position for five to 10 seconds before lowering back down again.
- Start with one set of 10 repetitions and work up to three sets as you progress.
- As the bridges get easier, the technique can be progressed by placing a small dumbbell on your waist before attempting the lift. You can also attempt the bridge with one leg instead of two.
Slide Down a Wall
Another simple knee strengthening exercise suggested by Bethesda Health is the wall slide. This beginner quadriceps movement is convenient to perform while leaning on a wall or against the back of a smooth door. By strengthening the thigh muscles with this technique, your knees can be brought into more proper alignment.
- Stand facing away from a wall and with your feet 12 to 16 inches ahead of it.
- Lean your buttocks and shoulders against the wall and slowly slide down as you allow your knees to bend. Make sure to prevent your knees from buckling inwards by keeping them over your feet.
- When your knees form a 90-degree angle and your thighs are parallel to the floor, hold the position for five to 10 seconds.
- Slide back up the wall and return to the starting position. Try to complete 10 repetitions of the wall slide during each session.
If you experience any pain with this exercise, try decreasing the hold time or modifying the squat to keep it more shallow.
- Michigan Medicine: “Patellar Tracking Disorder: Exercises”
- Massachusetts General Hospital: “Exercises to Preserve, Strengthen Knees”
- Bethesda Health: “9 Best Knee Strengthening Exercises”
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: “Proximal Muscle Rehabilitation is Effective for Patellofemoral Pain: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis”
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: “Factors Associated with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: A Systematic Review”