Knee Extension Exercises

Basic Knee Exercises

If you’ve come to see me about knee pain, or recently had knee surgery, or even just have knee pain, then the chances are that you need these. I’ve spoken before about how important it is to get your knee straight. Not exciting but absolutely critical to getting better.

Whenever possible, all exercises should be done 3-4 times a day.

At first they may be hard work and you may not be able to repeat them often, so start off with a few and build yourself up.

We are not looking to cause pain with these exercises. You may feel stiff which is OK but if they are very painful, stop and contact me.

You can also download these Knee Straightening Exercises as a PDF to keep them handy.

Standing Knee Extension Exercise

  • Stand with your weight on your bad knee.
  • Straighten your knee as much as possible.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds then gently release and repeat 10 times.
  • You may not be able to do many at first, so start with less and slowly work your way up.
  • Whenever you are standing up, try and use your thigh muscles to help push your knee straight.

Seated Knee Extension Exercise 1

  • Seated Knee Extension Exercise 1While sitting comfortably with your legs out in front of you, roll up a towel and place it under your heel.
  • Being in this position, gravity can work the knee straight.
  • Start by staying in this position for a few seconds and work your way up to 10 – 20 minutes.
  • To help straighten your knee further, try gently squeezing your thigh muscles to help push your knee towards the floor.

Seated Knee Extension Exercise 2

  • Seated Knee Extension Exercise 2In the same position as for exercise 1, use a towel to apply an extra stretch into extension.
  • To begin with, hold the position for 5 seconds then gently release and repeat 10 times.
  • For this exercise, build up holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds.
  • You may not be able to do many at first so start with less and slowly work your way up.

Seated Exercise 3

Seated Knee Extension Exercise 3, Part 1

  • In a comfortable seated position, place a rolled up towel underneath your knee.
  • Using your thigh muscles push the knee down so that the heel starts to lift off the floor.
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds then gently release and repeat 10 times.
  • Seated Knee Extension Exercise 3, Part 2Take up the same position and this time roll your leg outwards slightly – your foot should only be a few degrees from vertical. Do the same exercise again.
  • This should feel more intense in the inner thigh.
  • This exercise can be progressed in the same way as exercise 1 by introducing the use of the towel. This will ensure you are using the full range of movement available at the knee.

 ICE for simple pain relief

  •  ICE for simple pain reliefThis technique uses simple ice bags (frozen peas are always good).
  • Dry the area first.
  • Wrap your ice bag in a damp tea towel to prevent direct contact with the skin and thus stop ice burns.
  • Apply to the area for no more than 10 minutes at a time – longer is counterproductive.
  • This can be repeated every 30 minutes if necessary.
  • Ensure that you check the skin quality regularly and if you notice anything abnormal, contact us.


  • Alexander

    November 23, 2016, 6:02 pm

    Hi, when I sit on the floor with my legs forwards in front of me,my legs are appear bent as everyone said. But for me I already straightned them! I noticed the back of my knee and my calf did not touch the floor. Can using these exercises help realign my legs? I never had injury or surgery of legs before. I am also flexible so tight hamstring shouldnt be a problem as I can do the splits. Thanks!

  • samsam yung

    August 18, 2019, 1:30 pm

    Yes I m wondering the same thing. The back of the knee not touch. Could it be a function of the shape of the calf and hamstring muscles and not an indication of a bent knee? Would looking at the front, quad, knee cap and shin be a better measure of straightness for some people

  • Estelle Mitchell

    August 19, 2019, 11:47 am

    Hi Alexander and SamSam,
    For some, if you have a very developed calf muscle (think professional sports person!) then yes, there may be some interference with putting your knee straight onto the floor.
    For the rest of us, while there will be a small gap underneath the knee, the back of the knee should be straight. The muscles can create an optical illusion but this is why your physiotherapist has tools to check!

  • Elaine Cook

    June 27, 2020, 12:07 pm

    Do you have a recommendation for a good knee surgeon in the area? Also could MRT help with meniscus damage and osteoarthritis in knee to extent of not needing surgery?

    • Estelle Mitchell

      June 29, 2020, 12:23 pm

      Hi Elaine,
      I’ll reply in detail via email, in short yes and yes!

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