Health & Wellness

The 6 Best Knee Stretches For Unhappy Knees

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This article may contain affiliate links. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Privacy Policy.

Do your knees ache or feel unhappy? Do they start to scream at you when you walk, sit or stand for too long? While a quick doctor’s visit may be the best option, this set of exercises and stretches may help relieve the chronic ache you’re experiencing.

While there are no true stretches for your actual knee joint, there are several muscles that could be contributing to your knee discomfort.

The various muscles that could be contributing to your pain include:

  • Hamstrings (back of the thigh)
  • Quadriceps (front of the thigh)
  • Glutes (hips and butt)
  • Iliopsoas (hip flexor)
  • Calves (lower legs)

The 6 Best Knee Stretches

When any of these muscles are tight or strained, it can affect your knees. So let’s look at a few stretches that cover all of these muscle groups.

1. Leg Extension

This is a simple movement you can do before you even get out of bed in the morning to kick start your day — and your knees!

  • Lay on your back.
  • Draw one knee into your chest and grab behind your thigh. (You may use a strap or towel to wrap around your thigh if this grip does not feel available)
  • Slowly extend your leg while driving your heel to the ceiling.
  • Pause in extension for one breath, then re-bend your knee.
  • Repeat 5-10x on each leg.

2. Figure 4

This stretch focuses on your glutes and deep hip rotator muscles. 

  • Lay on your back and rest your left ankle above your right knee.
  • Press your left thigh away from your chest.
  • If you desire more, hug your thighs toward your chest.
  • Stay and breathe for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

3. Half Splits Hinge

Tight hamstrings may be one of the main reasons you are experiencing discomfort in your knees. Try out this hamstring stretch to see if it supports you.

  • Start in a kneeling position, then extend one leg out in front of you.
  • Flex your foot on the extended leg while keeping your toes and knee facing the ceiling.
  • Begin to hinge at your hips until you feel a stretch down the back of your leg.
  • Pause for a breath and return your torso to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5-10 times on each side.

Related: The 9 Best Yoga Exercises For People With Desk Jobs [Guide]

4. Low Lunge With Optional Bind

Tight quadriceps can often be the culprit of knee pain. Try this stretch (and any of the three progressions shown) to lengthen your quads.

  • Start in the lunge position, with your back knee on your mat.
  • Maintain alignment with your front knee tracking directly above your ankle.
  • Keep hands on your front thigh or lower your hands to the mat for a deeper stretch.
  • If you want more, bend your back knee and reach back for your foot.
  • Stay and breathe for 30-60 seconds per side.

5. Inner Thigh Glide

Not only could tightness along the front and back of your thigh be causing knee strain, but your inner thighs may be contributing as well. This is an excellent release for your inner thigh and groin.

  • Start on your hands and knees, then slowly extend one leg out to the side.
  • Gently hinge your hips back towards your back heel while rotating your straight leg (knee and toes) up to the ceiling.
  • Pause for a breath and then resume starting position.
  • Repeat 5-10 times on each side.

6. Seated Calf Release

Finally, let’s focus on your lower legs. Your calves, if tight, can add tension to your hamstrings and knees. This isometric hold is a great myofascial release for both your hamstrings and calves.

  • Place a rolled blanket, towel, or yoga mat on your calves in a kneeling position.
  • Gently sit your hips down onto the rolled prop.
  • Breathe and allow yourself to relax into this position while the rolled prop and your body weight help release tension.
  • Adjust the exact placement of the prop to receive the best stretch for your body (closer to knees or closer to ankles).
  • Sit and breathe for 30-60 seconds.

Your knees do so much for you. They allow you to sit, stand, walk, jump, dance, and more! If they feel stiff or uncomfortable, try this sequence to feel some relief. And if the pain persists or feels extreme, please make an appointment with your doctor.

You might also be interested in: Hip Stretches For Tight Hip Flexors [The 11 Best Stretches]

The 6 Best Stretches for Unhappy Knees:

1. Leg Extension

2. Figure 4

3. Half Splits Hinge

4. Low Lunge (with bind)

5. Inner Thigh Glide

6. Seated Calf Release


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