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Build stronger knees with exercise.
Weak knees can be a problem for people of all ages and fitness levels. Rapid growth in teenagers, overuse or improper form in athletes, the natural aging process and excess body weight all can cause knee weakness and pain. Strengthening the knees with exercise and proper warm-up and stretching techniques can help alleviate many of these problems. If your weak knees are caused by a medical condition or injury, check with your doctor before exercising.
Calf-Strengthening Leg Lifts
The knee joints depend on strong surrounding bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments and tendons to bend properly, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Two separate calf muscles need to be strong for healthy knee-movement support. The lower calf muscle is strengthened when the legs are bent, which can be done using a seated calf-raise machine. The upper, most-visible calf muscle can be strengthened by straight-leg calf raises -- either with or without using a machine. For straight-leg calf raises without a machine, stand on a wedge with toes on and heels off. Holding a barbell in each hand, lift up as far as you can by pushing up with your toes. Lower heels straight down to below the wedge. Then lift back up to the neutral position. Start with enough weight to feel soreness but not pain after three sets of 20 to 30 lifts, and increase weight as you gain strength. If this exercise is difficult and you need to build strength and balance, it can be done standing on the floor without the wedge and without weight.
Without strong quadriceps -- the front upper-thigh muscle group -- knee movement is more difficult and knees become weaker. Straight-leg raises strengthen the quadriceps without straining the knees. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you with feet slightly more than shoulder-with apart. Place your palms on the floor on either side and slowly lift one foot up about six inches, or as high as possible, off the floor. Keep your back straight and hold your foot up for a slow count of eight, then lower the foot to the floor. Repeat with both legs 10 times. If your quads aren't strong, you might not be able to hold for eight counts and you might need to work up to 10 repetitions. You can expect to вЂњfeel the burnвЂќ with this exercise.
Hamstring-Strengthening Leg Curls
Leg exercises that neglect the back of the upper leg -- hamstrings -- can cause an imbalance of the overall leg muscles and strain your knees. You can build strong hamstrings with leg curls by using a lying leg curl machine or by holding a dumbbell between your feet. Lie with your chest down on the bench or floor. For the machine, adjust the bar to contact your legs between your heels and calves. If using a barbell, place it between your feet and hold it by squeezing your feet together. Start with the legs straight out, then slowly curl the feet up as far as you can toward your glutes. Lower the legs to the starting position for one repetition. Use enough weight to feel resistance but not cause pain for three sets of 10 repetitions.
Benefits of Biking for Weak Knees
High-impact exercises like running, walking and stair climbing can cause thinning of the cartilage under the knee cap, according an article in the National Center for Biotechnology Information's Journal of Anatomy. Biking is low-impact exercise that increases knee-joint flexibility by putting the knees through a full range of motion. It puts less strain on weak knees because your body weight is supported by the bike seat. The muscles surrounding the knees -- calves, hamstrings and quadriceps -- are strengthened by biking. Because biking is effective cardio exercise, it burns fat and can reduce excess weight that causes knee problems. A stationary bike allows you to bike at a steady resistance level and gradually increase resistance as your knees get stronger.