Terminal Knee Extension Exercises

Knee exercises are essential for restoring mobility and strength to a painful knee, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Terminal knee extension exercises involve moving your knee muscles through a partial range of motion and are frequently recommended by doctors and therapists after knee injury or surgery. You can perform TKE exercises in a sitting, standing or lying position. However, consult your doctor before attempting terminal knee extension exercises on your own.

A woman is doing leg extensions. (Image: Minerva Studio/iStock/Getty Images)

Terminal Means End of Range

Terminal knee extension concentrates on moving your knee through the end stage of the range of motion, or from a partially bent position as opposed to fully bent. Terminal knee extension exercises strengthen the quadriceps muscles in your thighs as well as your shin muscles. These muscles can weaken following knee injury or surgery and often remain weak even after recovery. As some exercises progress, you can add ankle weights for increased strengthening. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends beginning with 1-pound weights and gradually building up to a maximum of 5 pounds. Perform TKE exercises for 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times daily. If you experience swelling or pain, stop or decrease your exercises until pain subsides.

Sit It Out

To perform a terminal knee extension exercise seated on the floor, sit upright with your knee slightly bent over a rolled-up towel, foam roller or other cylinder-shaped object. Flex your foot back and concentrate on contracting your shin and quadriceps muscles to straighten your knee. Then, return to your starting position and perform one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with each leg. You can also do TKE exercises seated in a chair with your heel supported on a stool. Straighten your knee, hold for five seconds and then return to your starting position.

Lying Down

You can also do TKE lying flat on your back or supporting yourself on your forearms with your head and shoulders off the floor. Support your affected knee with a coffee can, soup can or another cylinder-shaped item and bend your knee at approximately a 30-degree angle. Slowly straighten your lower leg and contract your thigh muscles as tight as possible for three seconds. Then, cautiously lower your heel to the floor. Repeat this exercise for three sets of 10 repetitions each.

Stand Up to It

Terminal knee extension exercises, performed while standing, use elastic bands or cords for resistance. Some elastic band brands can roll and bunch up behind your knee. Applying a foam pad to your band can help reduce bunching and allow you to exercise more comfortably, says certified athletic trainer Neil Curtis in the "Journal of Athletic Training." Stand with a padded resistance band or resistance cord behind the affected knee and placed just above your joint line. Flex your knee against the band at around a 30-degree angle. Then return to your starting position. Repeat for three sets of 10 repetitions.

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