Seated Lower Body Exercises for Knee Support

When it comes to lower body strength, you can’t beat squats and lunges for the most effective exercise in the least amount of time. However, sometimes I have a client with serious knee issues, who needs to strengthen the muscles around the knee without standing up (or weight-bearing). 

Here are exercise ideas if you or someone you know is in a similar situation. They are great exercises to supplement weight-bearing exercises. 

You will need a dumbbell or other moderately heavy object, a mini-band (loop band) or physical therapy band (tied into a loop) and a small to medium inflatable squeezy ball (like a child’s toy ball). 

Make sure you have a sturdy chair with no wheels and a workout space free of any tripping hazards. Wear sturdy athletic shoes if you need them. 

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns about any of the exercises listed, consult your doctor, physical therapist or personal trainer.

Seated quadriceps lift 

Rest the weight on top of either thigh (above the knee joint) and flex your quad muscles to lift the leg up and down so the leg is straight at the knee. Control the lift and lowering of the leg at a moderate tempo. Perform 15-20 repetitions, then switch to the other leg.

Seated hip flexor lift 

Begin as above, but keep the knee bent throughout the exercise. Focus on using the psoas muscles above the quads as well as the quads to lift and lower the leg. Perform 15-20 repetitions on each side. If you feel any strain in the hip flexor, lighten the weight or use only body weight.

Heel/toe raises 

Rest one weight on each leg above the knees. Move through your maximum range of motion at the ankles to lift, first the heels, then the toes. For an extra brain challenge, try lifting opposites (toes on one foot and heel on the other foot, then switch). Perform 15-20 sets.

Seated abdominals 

Although this works the core, it also works the hip flexors. Hold your weight against the upper chest. Lengthen your spine and pull the abdominals in, then lean back until your abs engage. Hold briefly, then return to an upright position. For an extra challenge, try adding rotation (twisting) to each side while you are leaning back. Perform repetitions until you begin to fatigue. Do a second set if desired.

Seated deadlift 

Lean forward with the weight hanging toward the floor with feet wide and arms extended downward (gravity will pull the weight toward the floor). Keep the back flat. Using your upper and lower back, return to the upright position. As a bonus, squeeze your glutes together at the top. Perform 10-15 repetitions.

Seated abductors (outer thigh) with band 

Place the loop of band around your legs above the knees. You should feel some tension before you begin moving your legs. One leg at a time, rotate at the hip so you are lifting the leg up and then out (away from the midline), then return it to the start position. Alternate legs with each repetition. Focus on moving with the muscles of the outer leg and glute rather than just tapping to the side with the foot. Perform 15 sets or 30 total.

Seated clamshells (glute stabilizers) 

Place the loop of band as above. Lengthen your spine, then lean back slightly. Hold the chair for support if desired. Press the knees apart while keeping the soles of the feet locked together. Try to engage the outer glute muscles as you press. Hold briefly, then relax the tension slightly. Repeat until muscles are fatigued. 

Hamstring press with ball

Place the squeezy ball behind one knee while keeping the foot up and knee lifted. You can hold onto the ball if desired to keep it in place during the exercise or place the hands on the shin. Squeeze the ball by pressing the calf toward the hamstring; hold briefly, then relax the tension slightly. Try to contract your hamstring muscles to squeeze the ball. Perform 15-20 repetitions on each side.

Adductors (inner thigh) with ball 

Place the squeezy ball between the upper legs, just above the knees. Engaging the inner thigh muscles, pelvic floor and lower abs, squeeze the ball firmly, then relax the tension slightly. Perform 25-30 repetitions. 

I hope this article gives you new exercise ideas you can do without machines or needing to even stand up. 

Remember, consistency is the key, so make sure you are strength training the entire body (upper, lower, core) two to three times weekly. Feel free to perform multiple sets of each exercise as you get stronger and increase the weight or tension accordingly. 

Happy lifting!

Lori Vance

Body Image Fitness, LLC


Seated Lower Body Exercises for Knee Support

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