I've started cycling some long rides lately, and am feeling some knee pain.

I don't know exactly what's wrong; I'm getting minor complaints from all over my knees. See my last question for more detail. So I'm wondering if there is a general course of exercise I can follow to help improve the overall health of my knees, and to avoid straining them.

What sorts of activities can worsen knee pain? I usually spend a lot of time standing at the computer (in order to avoid back problems) but am worried that this may exacerbate knee problems. I've also taken to bending at the knees in order to get at low things, like for example when doing the dishes.

What can I do to help improve the health of my knees? Are there stretches or exercises I can do? I've found a couple of questions which discuss exercises to help treat specific knee injuries, but I'm unsure whether to try some of these or to avoid them in case they make the situation worse given my specific problems.

  • Do you use cleats? If so check that they are lined up correctly. This can cause issues with knees.
    – Jon
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 22:05

4 Answers 4


Heavy barbell squats.

A lot of people are very wary of squats, thinking that they will damage their knees. The truth is, properly performed squats do the opposite - they strengthen the muscles around the knee, providing more strength and stability. Bonus: proper heavy squatting will help you build muscle all over your body, even your arms!

The dangerous thing is that a LOT of people who have had bad experiences with "squats" were doing it wrong - and if you do squats wrong, it can be EXTREMELY bad for the knees.

I'll post some good articles on proper squatting when I get home, but the basic idea is this:

Proper form will put take all the force of the exercise and distribute it to the glutes and hamstrings - two of the body's strongest and largest muscles. It will also teach you what it feels like to take impact and force with your muscles, not your joints. AND, it will build flexibility of your entire lower body, which is really important for preventing knee injuries.

Improper form will put all the force on the knee joint itself (half squats), or force your body into unnatural movement patterns (smith machine squats). You WILL get injured this way.

Like I said, I'm at work and I can't post sources right now, but I'll get to it when I'm home.

  • 1
    Great post! I am interested in seeing those sources.. would you be able to link them? Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 2:57

I hope that your knee issues have gotten better. However, there are a few things that can cause knee pains on a bike.

  1. Seat height - Having a seat that is way too high or low can place odd stresses on the knees, and if it is too high, can also cause hip issues because you have to "rock" back and forth on the seat to stay on the pedals. A good bike fit can take that away.
  2. Cleats - Forward/back may not cause pain but if the cleats have your feet pointed in/out more than normal it can cause knee pain, especially if you have feet that are more than mildly pigeon toed or splayed outward.
  3. Crank length - This is somewhat controversial as to how much influence crank length has on the stroke, but if you are trying to push big gears with a wildly long crank length, then you can place some really odd stresses on your knees.
  4. Cleat height - If your legs are different lengths (Most are to some degree) then you may need shims under your cleat to make the platform height higher.

You can get an idea on some of this, if you bike down a CLEAR, EMPTY, STRAIGHT road (I say that in caps for emphasis on safety reasons), and look down at your legs, your knees should pretty much be tracking in a straight up and down motion. If your legs are cocking in or out at points in the stroke, something isn't fitting right and needs to be adjusted.

Having the proper sized bike frame and components, and getting a good fit will all help immensely.


Bending your legs while even slighty twisting your knee as well as overstreching for a long time (if you have that tendensy while standing and working) can cause some knee problems.

To avoid or get rid of knee pain you've got to stenghten your mucles around the knee and those affecting the knee at motions.

You can watch this website for some very throughout videos of the exercises that will help:

You've got to work hard and intense.

A good idea for you could be to rutinely warm up before doing the action that gave the knee pain. If it is cycling as well as just standing and working for long hours, always warm up your knee regions and have them warm and almost burning after the warm up.

To add more info take a look at the following websites:
- http://www.bigkneepain.com/knee-exercises.html
- http://www.physioadvisor.com.au/8119350/knee-strengthening-exercises-knee-rehabilitation.htm


Besides the other answers given, consider that you may not be using your gears correctly.

A lot of people learn to ride a single-speed bike as kids, so they're used to grinding their way up hills with their leg muscles. Later when they get a bike with gears, they may still be grinding much more than they need to instead of shifting to a lower gear. I did this myself for quite a long time before I did some reading and realized it was hurting my knees and not helping my fitness.

Since then, I've found a good rule of thumb to be: Stay in a lower gear until you simply can't pedal any faster in it. If you're feeling no force at all when you spin the pedals, then step up a gear. But always stay in the lowest gear where you can still make progress. This will lead to you spinning the pedals a lot faster, and you'll do more aerobic exercise, getting your heart in shape, than anaerobic exercise, which is the kind that makes your muscles sore and makes your knees hurt.

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