Running can put strain on the knee joint due to its repeated ground contact nature. With every ground strike we make, we send a request to the knee to tolerate the force required to continue propelling your momentum forwards.

For this reason, it is wise for runners to focus on strengthening their knee to prevent common injuries (such as Runner’s Knee) and improve overall performance.

The knee is made up of the tibia, fibula, and patella. The knee is able to flex, extend and also exhibit a slight degree of rotation. The muscles responsible for this include the quads and hamstrings. So…

How do I strengthen my knees for running?

Single Leg Step Down

Single leg step-downs primarily work the Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO). The VMO is responsible for the last 15-30 degrees of extension, which can be seen from the knee whilst completing a step down.


  • Screw your working leg tight into the floor
  • Keep pelvis level as you step down
  • Graze the floor at the bottom

Too hard?
Point toes down (reduce range of motion)

Too easy?
Add reps, time under tension (TUT) or load

Eccentric Sliding Hamstring Curl
The eccentric sliding hamstring curl is an exercise that targets the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh. It is an eccentric exercise, meaning it emphasises the lengthening, or lowering, phase of the muscle contraction, which can help build strength and prevent injuries.


  • Stay on Heels
  • Hips extended
  • Glutes contracted
  • Core braced

Too hard?
Do an isometric hold in various degrees of knee bend

Too easy?
Increase amount of time through each leg and try to complete the raising element too.

Split Squat
Split squats work several muscles in the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors. The unilateral exercise is a good test of strength, coordination and


  • Travel down like an escalator, not an elevator
  • Knee stays in line with or outside of the Hip and Foot

Too hard?
Raise your front foot or change to a bilateral movement like a goblet squat

Too easy?
Add reps, TUT or load; or raise your rear foot

Kneeling Leg Extensions
Kneeling leg extensions primarily work the quadriceps in an eccentric (lengthening) fashion.


  • Tall torso
  • Hips extended
  • Glutes contracted
  • Push through the toes

Too hard?
Hold onto a resistance band attached in front of you and have it assist with your bodyweight as you lean back

Too easy?
Elevate your feet or add reps/TUT

How do you piece it all together?
Stitch together those four exercises and add to your post run cool down 2-3 times per week. By progressing repetitions by 3 each week over a 12-week period, you will see significant improvements in knee strength. Hopefully decreasing your likelihood of suffering with injuries in the future!

Example Prehab Program: Week 1
Single Leg Step Down: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Eccentric Sliding Hamstring Curl: 3 x 6-9
Split Squat: 3 x 6-9
Kneeling Leg Extensions: 3 x 3-6

Additional tip: Try these 4 lower leg strengthening exercises for runners

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