Knee pain is usually the result of a muscular imbalance in the surrounding areas. This can be physiological, as a result of our body structure, or lifestyle based like weak glutes from sitting too much.
Left unresolved, knee pain can become chronic, so it is important to strengthen the surrounding areas and increase your ankle and hip flexibility to significantly reduce knee pain.
The standard approach to fixing knee pain is building leg strength through exercises like squats, lunges and deadlifts.
While these are great compound movements and crucial in any leg workout, they are not always effective at addressing knee pain as they focus on muscles that are already dominant, mainly your quads and hamstrings.
It is more important to focus on strengthening muscles that are weak because they are dormant/inactive.
In conjunction with strength work, releasing tight muscles through stretching and mobility is crucial for building strong knees for hiking.
This exercise stabilises the knee and strengthens the gluteus medius, which is an important muscle for balance while walking long distances or hiking.
How to do it: Lie on your side with your legs stacked straight and your head resting on your arm. Keeping your upper foot flexed, raise your leg towards the ceiling.
Rotate your hip internally so your heel is raised throughout the movement. Repeat for 25 reps each side for four sets. For added resistance, use ankle weights. Repeat on both sides.
This exercise stabilises the knee, preventing it from buckling inward when walking downhill.
How to do it: Lie on your side with your upper body raised onto your elbow and your head supported in your palm.
Bring your upper leg in front of your body, keeping your foot flat on the ground. Keep your lower leg extended and foot flexed, then raise it toward the ceiling.
Repeat for 20 reps on each leg, for 4 sets. For added resistance, use an ankle weight or have someone gently press down on your ankle.
This exercise strengthens the glutes and lower back, which stabilises the hips which in turn protects the knees. Single-leg exercises help even out any imbalances in the legs.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your feet and palms flat on the floor. Raise one leg off the ground, maintaining a bend in your knee.
Keeping that leg raised throughout, raise your hips towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Pause for two seconds then lower down.
Repeat for 10 reps on each side, for 3 sets. For beginners, this can be performed with both legs on the ground.
This exercise stabilises the ankles which are critical when walking up an inclined surface. Stabilising the ankles also prevents rolling which puts strain on knees.
How to do it: Sit on a firm bench or chair with your toes elevated on a small raised surface such as a book.
Place some weights on your thighs then, remain seated, lift your heels so your calves contract. Lower back down and repeat for 10-20 repetitions for 3 sets.