Reduce Hiking Knee Pain and Prepare Your Knees for Hiking

Hiking knee pain usually noticed in the area behind the kneecap, called patellar tendonitis, and can intensify when walking downhill.

Hiking conditioning exercises can help to minimize discomfort and pain and sometimes even reverse it!

I find the best exercises are those that work large areas of the body together rather than one specific muscle or group. This minimizes the risk of imbalances and hence injury.

These exercises include variations on old classics like the squat, deadlift and calf raises

Stretching exercises can also help with the focus invested in the iliotibial band, calves, and hamstring.

Here are six of the exercises that can help to prepare the knees for hiking:


Squats are something all hikers should do. Adding this strength makes your balance better and reduces your risk of injury.

Wall Squats

Wall squats help to promote better muscle endurance and certain to benefit the knees on a day-long hiking expedition.

This exercise is useful for its ability to work the quads with an isometric contraction. Build up the ability to hold the squat position over time with a preferred range in the region of 3-5 minutes.

Free Squats

Free squats can help the patellar tendons align and also get the muscle fibers at the extremes of your motion range to fire too. This has a lot of benefits to your knee health.

When you first start to squat, keep a slight curve in your back by looking at the horizon. You can put your hands in the small of your back and make sure you keep this curve or put your fingers to your temples.

There is a good chance your knees will be a bit creaky to start with, so go as deep as you can and gradually work up to full range squats.

Drop down with control until your knees are as close to 90 degrees as possible. If you have good knees, you can drop into a deep squat, but do not push it – as soon as you feel your lower back/pelvis curve under, that is as far as your body will let you go.

Keep your form and push up through your heels to return to your starting position. This should all be done at a slow count of 4 down and 3 coming up.

Raised Arm Squats

Once you have done that and feel comfortable, start to raise your arms as you descend into the squat. Make sure you keep your form and do not go lower than you can do with good form (this will be less due to the overhead arms)

This helps with flexibility in your torso and lower back, which can be a cause of knee pain.

Overarm squats

To add an additional mobility exercise, once you feel OK with raised arms, take a towel, roll it up and pull it taught between your hands. Now hold this overhead as you do your squats. Make sure you keep looking to the horizon and squat as deeply as you can. You will find this is nowhere near as deep as you did previously.

Barbell squats

For the really advanced among you, you can do this with a barbell as though you are an Olympic weightlifter…but this is darn hard!


Use the preferred exercise option and complete 5 repetitions of 6 Reps. Allow yourself 60-120 seconds between sets, but allow more if required

Form is the most important thing here, not repetitions. So if you are struggling to maintain your form, either go to an easier version of the exercise or stop.


Cycling (on the streets or a stationary bike) gives a perfect opportunity to strengthen and condition the muscles around the knees. A regular cycling session helps to build the hamstrings and quadriceps to provide both long-term endurance and strength.

A planned exercise program should ideally start at least 2-3 months before starting to hike in the wilderness. A cycling program should include 3-5 sessions per week with each session lasting 20-25 minutes per day.


I also like to add in a Tabata into my cycling routine. Once you are warmed up, this only takes 5 minutes to do, but it is so good for you….even if it is hateful at the time!

A Tabata has been shown to do wonders for what is called your VO2 Max (or how good your body is at processing oxygen) which gives all manner of good health and fitness benefits.

Read Post  Hiking Boots or Shoes: Do I Really Need Hiking Boots?

A Tabata is simply 20 seconds flat out, followed by 10 seconds coasting repeated 8 times, then a minute gently cycling as you get your breath back…well, some of it!

As a tip, start off with an easier resistance than think you will be able to do. The Tabata works best if you can be absolutely flat out during each of those 20 second stints.

By the end of them, you will be gasping for breath and hating lactic acid…if not, push harder or wind the resistance up a touch more.

Deadlifts and Hamstring Stretches

Improving the flexibility of the hamstring is certain to minimize issues with knee pain from hiking and all-around knee health.

The hamstring works in combination with the quadriceps muscles to help with supporting the knee. Perform a hamstring stretch using a scissor or standing stretches.

In addition, get the rest of what are called your rear-chain muscles working with deadlifts. This will both increase the mobility and strengthen your hamstrings, with a very nice side effect of working your core muscles too.

This not only helps with knee issues, but also helps with your balance, especially useful when on uneven ground with a pack!

It is quite hard to describe a deadlift, so the best bet is to watch this video

You can start off with a very light weight like a few books in a pack. As you get the technique, work up to bigger weights.

Once again, worry more about your form that the number of repetitions, but the 5 sets of 6 is a good place to aim for. Once you can do this with your current weight, add a bit more weight rather than adding reps.

Calf Stretches and Raises

Calf muscles can benefit from a daily stretch to avoid issues with tightness which can have the negative impact of knee pain.

You should also look to exercise them to maintain their strength and balance as we tend to have a dominant side and it can really show up in your calves (my left is way weaker than my right for example!)

Calf Stretches

The easiest way to stretch them is to find a wall, keep one leg straight, with the heel on the ground and step the other foot forward, then push into the wall, making sure you keep that heel on the ground. Hold this for ten seconds, then try to move your leg back a little and do it again.

Calf Raises

To strengthen your calves, the raise is almost the only exercise you can do! If you are new to this, stand on a level floor, keep your legs straight and simply raise yourself up onto tiptoe. Do not use your hands to balance as you need to work both your legs.

Make sure you raise slowly to your maximum extension to the count of 2 or 3 and descend slowly at the same rate.

As you get comfortable doing this, stand on a stair with your heels hanging over the edge. You can now drop deeper, giving your calves an additional stretch.

Once you get to grips with this, try it one-legged – make sure you work your weaker side first and only do the same number of repetitions as you could manage with your weak leg on your stronger side. You can do this on a level floor or on a step as you get stronger.

Finally, add some weight – do this with a pack on your back or go to the gym where they have machines for this exercise.

A positive impact of strengthening the calves is the ability to tone the muscles around the knee. Plus, the strong calf muscles are much more efficient at giving shock-absorbing protection while hiking.

Iliotibial Band Stretch

The tendon known as the iliotibial band is found on the outside of the leg and stretches from the knee to hip. If this muscle is left to get too tight it can start to cause issues with knee pain.

A regular session of an iliotibial band stretch is certain to help avoid this type of problem.

Primary Sidebar

Increase the Speed of Your Hikes

How to Increase the Speed of Your Hikes

Post Hike Recovery

Post Hiking Recovery: 8 Useful Tips

Hiking vs Running – Which is Better For You and Why?

What Muscles Does Hiking Work? The Answer May Surprise You

How to Prepare Your Knees for Hiking

Reduce Hiking Knee Pain and Prepare Your Knees for Hiking

How Many Calories Are Burned Hiking And How Can You Burn More?


Affiliate Disclosure

We believe in being as transparent as possible when it comes to this site. With this in mind, please be aware that we may receive remuneration for some of the products we review on this site.

Total Hiker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to (and other Amazon programs).

We will also list ads from time to time. You should be able to see these as text links or blocks of ads which have a small notation indicating “Ads by Google” or “AdChoices”.

Our mission is to help our visitors, but this is also very clearly a for-profit site and you should realize as much. We include only those products that we believe could benefit you, some of which we may get a commission if you purchase them. However, we also provide links on the site to information resources for which we receive no compensation.

If you have any questions whatsoever, please contact us using the “contact” option on the site menu and we will be happy to answer any questions.

Trademark Dislosure

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc, or its affiliates.

Read Post  Best Hiking in Nepal

In addition, any other trademarks and logos we mention on this site are also the property of their respective owners.

Copyright © 2022 Total Hiker

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies.

Which Exercise Helps Prepare The Knee And Kneecap For Hiking?

which exercise helps prepare the knee and kneecap for hiking?

Wall squats help to promote better muscle endurance and will benefit the knees on a day-long hiking expedition. This exercise can be used to work the quads with an Isometric contraction. With a variety of different exercises, you can build up the ability to hold the squat position.

Table of Contents

What exercise is good for knee cap?

You should hold your knee straight. Lift the leg 12 to 18 inches off the floor by flexing the quadriceps muscles of your straight leg. Hold for about 6 seconds, then lower the leg and rest for a few seconds. 3 to 5 times per leg is what you should do. Kneeling Leg Curl (Kettlebell Curls) Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.

Place your hands behind your head, palms facing each other, and hold the kettlebell in front of you with both hands at shoulder height. Keeping your arms straight, bend at the waist and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the earth. Keep your legs straight throughout the movement and don’t allow your hips to move forward or backward. Repeat for the recommended number of reps.

Which exercise helps prepare the knee and knee cap for hiking?

Walking lunges are a great way to strengthen the muscles in the leg that support the knee joint. A lunge with a short step does not work the hamstrings as well as a lunge with a long step. Lunges can also be used as a warm-up for other exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and push-ups.

How can I strengthen my knees for hiking downhill?

If you have difficulty walking downhill, walking lunges, reverse lunges, and single leg 14 squats are excellent exercises. Before training for downhill hiking, you need to perform some lower body exercises. If you are not able to walk downhill, you may want to consider using a sled. A sled is a device that can be used to carry you down a hill. You can purchase one at most sporting goods stores, or you can rent one from a local ski resort.

If you do not have access to one of these devices, then you will need to find a way to get down the hill without using your legs. There are many ways to do this, but the most common method is to use a rope. The rope is attached to a pulley system that allows you to pull the rope up and over the top of the slope. This method can also be done with a pair of skis or snowshoes.

It is important to note, however, that this method does not allow for the use of your arms, so it is not recommended for people who have limited mobility in their arms. Another method that may be useful for some people is using an ice axe.

How do I stretch my knee for hiking?

While standing, bend your knees slightly, and forward from your hips. Cross your arms and grab the other side of your body. You can sway side-to-side and bend your knees as much as you want. The weight should be shifted from one side of your body to the other.

How do I protect my knees when hiking?

While walking at a steady pace, keep your knees flexed. Increasing your speed increases the weight on your knees and shortens your stride. Instead of a straight line, walk sideways or s-shaped in a zig-zag motion. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out the video below.

How do I stop my knees from hurting when hiking downhill?

You shouldn’t be leaning back. It’s best to remain upright when hiking downhill, keeping your torso over your hips and knees. You can also lean forward to improve stability if it helps. It’s important to keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out the video below to see how I do it.

Why am I weak in the knees?

There are a number of reasons why you would go weak in the knees. Weakness in your knees can be caused by a couple of scary but rare nerve disorders. If you have any of these conditions, you should see your doctor right away.

How To Prepare And Strengthen Your Knees For Hiking

There’s a few surefire ways to prepare and strengthen your knees for hiking, and just like everything else in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Knee pain while hiking can impact the enjoyability of your time outdoors and can even cause you to cut your hiking trips short – two things we don’t want to see you do!

We’ve put together this guide with some functional tips and exercises to help you reduce hiking knee pain so you can stay on the trail longer and have a great time doing it.

Strengthen Knees For Hiking

How To Strengthen Your Knees For Hiking

Just like strengthening any muscle or body part, you’re going to need to do some specific exercises to build up the muscles that surround and support the knee.

You’ll shift the load off your knees by strengthening these muscles over time.

Don’t worry: you don’t need to be a bodybuilder or to start guzzling protein shakes to benefit from some consistent exercise.

Walk Up And Down Stairs

Walking up and down stairs engages many of the same muscles that hiking does, but you can control the amount of steps you tackle each time.

Read Post  How to be prepared for wildlife encounters on the trail

When walking down stairs, take them one at a time. You can experiment with climbing up stairs one, two, or even three at a time if your physical ability allows.

High school stadiums, local parks, and outdoor auditoriums are great places to find long sets of stairs to practice this on.


Performing wall squats or free squats build your quads and glutes, which improves your balance and reduces your risk of injury.

Start by going as deep as you can, eventually building up to full-range squats.

Aim to drop down at a steady pace until your knees are as close to 90 degrees as you can manage, but don’t overexert yourself – especially if you have bad knees in the first place.

Maintain your form as you push back up through your heels and return to your original position.

Repeat this for up to 10 repetitions in 3 separate sets.

Take a look at the video below for some tips on performing proper squats:

Side Lying Leg Raises

Lie on your side, with your hips in line with each other (or stacked on top of each other) while bending your bottom leg.

Exhale as you lift the top leg up towards the ceiling, then lower it.

Aim for 10-20 reps (repetitions) per side, completing 3 sets per side.

Here’s a video explaining how to do a side lying leg raise:

Pointed Dog aka Four Point Kneeling

Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

Engage your core while keeping your pelvis neutral, and reach one leg back.

Concentrate on using your buttocks to raise the leg up and out behind you, bring it back to starting position, and complete the same action with your other leg.

Aim for 10-20 reps each side, completing 3 sets per side.

See this video for details on how to do a four-point kneel:

Standing Hamstring Curls

Stand up straight while holding onto a support surface such as a desk, dresser, chair, or other stable object.

Slowly bring your heel as close to your buttocks as you can, hold the position for a count of three, then bring your foot back down. Repeat with your other foot.

Try to complete 10-15 reps on each side for 3 total sets.

Here’s a video on how to complete a standing hamstring curl:


Lunges are a great move that really strengthens your quads and hamstrings, but don’t go too deep at first – especially if you have existing knee issues.

Begin standing up with your feet together, then take a large step forward with one foot.

Lower your body until your rear knee almost touches the ground, being sure to keep both feet pointing forward.

Push back up, take an alternating step, and repeat.

Try to complete 3 sets of 10-15 reps, being sure to work each leg equally. You can go lower in the lunges over time as your mobility allows.

Check out this video on how to perform lunges:


Using a bicycle or stationary bike can help considerably to strengthen the muscles around the knees, build the quads and hamstrings, and also increase endurance.

Try to complete 3-5 sessions per week lasting around 20 minutes each.

Balance Training

Using obstacle domes, balance balls, or gliding discs at home are fun and easy ways to increase your balance and strengthen your knees for hiking.

Try one or try them all, and the great part is that you can do them as much as you’d like.

How To Protect Your Knees While Hiking

In addition to preparing and strengthening your knees for hiking, you also need to continue to protect them while on the trail to avoid setbacks and injuries.

Here are a few tried and trusted methods to protect your knees while on the trail.

Wrap Your Knees

Elastic brace wraps or knee compression sleeves are great protection options because they help improve joint and muscle stability while also aiding in muscle recovery.

Wear Properly Fitting Hiking Boots

Using poor-fitting footwear will wreak havoc on your hips and knees, so it’s critically important that your hiking boots fit well and offer good support and traction on the trail.

Read through our guide on how hiking boots should fit to make sure your pair best supporting you.

Use Trekking Poles

Using trekking poles while hiking improves your balance and provides extra support to your knees by transferring the load of your weight to the poles.

Distributing the weight evenly across your body will help protect your knees from impact while hiking downhill.

Give Compression Socks A Try

Compression socks aid in joint stability, muscle stability, and muscle recovery just like knee compression sleeves do.

Take a look at our reviews of the best compression socks for hiking for some great recommendations.

Change Your Pace

Hiking more slowly and changing the way you hike downhill can help your knees out quite a bit.

Try allowing your hips to move more freely from side to side as you hike, and you can even try zig-zagging down the trail to avoid the extra impact that a head-on step will put on your knees.

Wrapping Up How To Strengthen Your Knees For Hiking

We hope you try the above exercises and tips for preparing and strengthening your knees while hiking and that it provides you with some extra relief.

Let us know what worked best for you (along with any recommendations not listed here) in the comments below.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *