Health Information & Tools > Health A-Z >  Exercises to Improve Recovery After Knee Replacement Surgery

Main Content

Knee Replacement Surgery

Exercises to Improve Recovery After Knee Replacement Surgery

​​Begin After You Have Seen Your Surgeon or a Physical Therapist

It is important to exercise after surgery to increase the strength and flexibility in your new knee and to help prevent blood clots. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but exercising will help you to get back to your normal everyday activities sooner.

Your healthcare team may suggest you add some or all of the following exercises to the ones you began at home before surgery. Start doing them only after you have been seen by your surgeon at your first follow-up visit after surgery. Continue the exercises you were doing before surgery​. Your healthcare team will give you the elastic loop you need for some of the exercises. They will tell you how often to do the exercises, how many times to repeat each one, and how much force or pressure you can put on your new knee. You will steadily increase the number of times you exercise daily, how often you repeat each exercise, and the amount of pressure.

Do the exercises on both legs to make them equally strong and flexible. Do them slowly and with control. Make sure you do not force your new knee into a position that causes you pain or discomfort.

Exercise 1: Strengthen back thigh muscles

  • Sit in a steady chair and place an elastic loop around both ankles.
  • Pull one foot back under the chair while keeping the other foot steady as you stretch the elastic loop.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-1.jpg


Exercise 2: Strengthen front thigh muscles

  • Sit in a steady chair and place an elastic loop around both ankles.
  • Lifting one foot, straighten your leg while keeping the other foot on the floor as you stretch the elastic loop.
  • Slowly lower your foot and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-2.jpg


Exercise 3: Strengthen front thigh muscles

  • Sit on the front edge of a steady chair with your knees shoulder width apart.
  • Make sure your knees are lined up with your feet.
  • Slowly raise and lower yourself from the chair without using your arms.
  • Put equal pressure on your legs.
  • Do not lean forward at the waist.
  • Use a chair with armrests if you need to use your arms at first while you build up strength in your legs.
  • Use a pillow to raise the seat level if it is too low.
  • Repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-3.jpg


Exercise 4: Strengthen back thigh muscles

  • Lie on your stomach with your legs straight.
  • Slowly bend one leg, lifting the heel toward your buttocks.
  • Slowly lower your leg to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-4.jpg


Exercise 5: Increase knee flexibility and strengthen back thigh muscles

  • Lie on your stomach and bend both legs up toward your buttocks.
  • Cross one leg behind the other at the ankle.
  • Use the heel on the outside leg to gently push the inside leg toward your buttocks.
  • Hold for a count of 15.
  • Release and repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-5.jpg


Exercise 6: Increase knee flexibility

  • Sit with one leg bent and loop a towel around the ankle.
  • Using the towel, gently pull the heel toward your buttocks.
  • Hold for a count of 15.
  • Release and repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-6.jpg

Exercise 7: Strengthen front thigh muscles

  • Place one end of an elastic loop around a secure object and the other end around one thigh keeping the knee bent slightly.
  • Hold onto a table or other steady object.
  • Slowly straighten the leg to stretch the elastic loop, keeping your heel on the floor.
  • Return slowly to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-7.jpg


Exercise 8: Strengthen leg muscles and improve balance

  • Place a city telephone book or object of about the same thickness on the floor to use as a step.
  • Holding onto a table or countertop for balance, step forward and up onto the object.
  • Slowly step back down.
  • Repeat.
kneerep-exercise-after-8.jpg

Exercise 9: Strengthen leg muscles and improve balance

  • Move one leg forward.
  • Bend the forward leg and lean your upper body over the bent knee.
  • Hold for a count of 3 to 5.
  • Slowly relax and return to a standing position.
  • Repeat.

kneerep-exercise-after-9.jpg


Exercise 10: Stretch back of leg and increase ankle flexibility

  • Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall.
  • Move one leg forward and bend it while keeping the other leg straight.
  • Slowly lean your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of the straight leg.
  • Hold for a count of 3 to 5.
  • Slowly relax the stretch.
  • Repeat.​​​
kneerep-exercise-after-10.jpg

Last Revised: January 31, 2013

Author: Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute