Are struggling to get rid of your pain?
Chances are you’re doing the wrong exercises or you’re making small technique mistakes that are hurting your knees.
On this page, I share the 5 patellar tendonitis exercises that thousands of my readers have already benefited from and I will show you how to do them correctly.
Using these drills you can finally heal your knees, so let’s get started with the very best exercise.
The Best Exercise for Instant Pain Relief
The best way to reduce pain from an overused patellar tendon is to release as much tension as possible from your leg muscles. Stretching may be the first thing on your mind in that regard, but for maximum effect, you need to combine stretching with self-massage of your leg muscles.
Self-massage reduces tension in your legs by releasing soft-tissue restrictions in your muscles and it can be very uncomfortable. These restrictions happen when tissues that should glide freely on top of each other are stuck together. Sometimes this happens after an injury, but often it’s a consequence of too much sitting and general lack of movement.
For many of my readers, self-massage of the quadriceps muscles led to an instant reduction in pain. It’s like when your stomach hurts after eating too much and the first thing you do is undo your belt buckle: instant relief!
Self-Massage for Patellar Tendonitis: Here’s how you do it
To do self-massage, you will need a foam roller or another round object you can roll on (e.g., a PVC pipe or a tennis ball). Place the roller underneath your legs and begin by rolling your calves, your hamstrings, your buttocks (the gluteal muscles), and the sides of your hip.
Finally, move on to your quadriceps muscles and roll their full length. First, with your legs straight and then with your legs bent.
Roll each muscle for a minute or two and relax as much as possible. Don’t hold your breath because holding your breath causes tension as it signals your body that you’re in some sort of danger. Instead, breathe slowly and deeply through your nose.
If you don’t have a foam roller…
If you don’t have a foam roller, you can improvise an even more effective massage tool for your quadriceps muscles from household items. I show you how to do this in my free email course on patellar tendonitis
5 Great Stretches for Patellar Tendonitis
In patellar tendonitis, three muscle groups commonly tend to be tight: the calves, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps muscles. These muscle cross the knee, so any excess tightness in these muscles places more tension on the knee.
If you’re running and jumping with tight leg muscles, your legs are working against additional resistance and pain eventually develops. It’s like driving with your handbrake on: instead of breaking records, you’ll break your body.
Here’s how you fix it
Before you do any stretches, you need to release all soft-tissue restrictions in the muscles you want to stretch. A muscle with knots and trigger points doesn’t like being stretched and often reacts by becoming even tighter, which we definitely don’t want.
Stretching a muscle with soft-tissue restrictions is like trying to stretch a rubber band that has a knot in it: for maximum extensibility, you first have to undo the knot. We already took care of that with the earlier exercises, so now let’s move on to the stretches for patellar tendonitis.
Stretch #1: The Calf Stretch
Years ago, I noticed that I had much less discomfort in my patellar tendon if I stretched my calves before basketball games. Today, I recommend calf stretches to everyone I work with because of how common tight calves are.
The most convenient way to stretch your calves is by using a slanted board. Here’s a video demonstration of this stretch (fast forward to 3:27):
You can achieve a similar effect by placing the balls of your feet on a step and letting your heels drop down like so:
You need to wear shoes with a solid but flexible sole for this stretch.
Another way to do this stretch is by placing the balls of your feet on the curb of the street and letting your heels sink down. You can do this particular variation almost anywhere and I used to do it before basketball games.
Stretch #2: The Quad Stretch
To stretch your quads, you will need a padded surface. I’m using a folded blanket, but you can also use a thick pillow or good kneepads. I don’t recommend doing this on a hard surface, as it’s very painful and may injure your knee.
Kneel down on the padded surface in a lunge position. Now, reach back, grab the ankle of the rear leg, and pull it to your hip. If you notice discomfort in your knee, try moving your knee a bit. I usually lean forward after I grabbed my ankle and then sit up again. Here’s what it looks like:
Another variation of this stretch is the couch stretch. The couch stretch also stretches your quads and you will need a couch to do it. Dr. Kelly Starrett of San Francisco Crossfit popularized this stretch.
Here’s what the couch stretch looks like:
Place your knee all the way into the back corner of the couch and then sit up straight. Don’t round your lower back. Keep your abdominal muscles braced as if you’re bracing for a punch and keep the gluteal muscles of the leg you’re stretching tight.
Stretch #3: The Hamstring Stretch
Tight hamstrings are very common today, but you have to be careful with stretching them. Make sure you’ve trained your gluteal muscles for at least a week or two before you stretch your hamstrings.
Weak gluteal muscles will cause your hamstrings to become overworked, which leads to tightness. Hence, you need to strengthen your gluteals before you can expect to get rid of tightness in your hamstrings. Once you’ve taken care of that, here’s how you can stretch them:
Lie on your back and use a belt or something similar to pull one foot closer to your body. Push against the belt with your foot for 10 seconds while you pull on the belt with your hands. After 10 seconds, release the tension, breathe out with an audible sigh, and pull your foot a little closer.
Do this stretch with your legs straight and with your legs bent.
Patellar Tendonitis Exercises for Your Hips
To understand why training your hip muscles is important for healing your patellar tendonitis remember this analogy: if you lift with good back alignment, it’s much easier on your spine than if you were to lift with a rounded back.
For good leg alignment, your feet need to point forward and your knees should track over your toes when you move. Don’t let your knees cave in towards the midline of your body and don’t let your knees come forward when you jump or squat.
The following gluteal exercises will help you maintain good leg alignment and thereby help take stress off your patellar tendon. Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise:
Gluteal Exercise #1: Hip Abductions
Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Now, raise the upper leg up by leading with the heel. Keep your hips perpendicular to the ground and never move your hip. You should feel the exertion on the outside of your hip and not your thigh.
Gluteal Exercise #2: Clamshells
Lie on your side with your legs slightly bent and in front of you. Rotate the upper leg out, merely using your hip muscles. Don’t push off with your feet and don’t move your hip.
Gluteal Exercise #3: Glute Bridges
Lie on your back and move your heels in so that your middle fingers gently touch your heels. Now, push through your heels to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Touch your buttocks muscles and your hamstrings to make sure your gluteals are doing most of the work.
Finally, here’s exercise #5:
Heal Your Patellar Tendon with Eccentric Squats
Using this exercise for patellar tendonitis has been shown to provide treatment outcomes equal to tendon surgery and it is supported by decades of academic research. The exercise I’m talking about is eccentric squats on a slanted board and here’s how you do it:
How to Start Healing Your Knees Today
To help you get back to being active the way you love, I’ve create a free email course on patellar tendonitis and I also want to send you the two most important chapters of my book Beating Patellar Tendonitis as a gift. Click here to receive my best material on patellar tendonitis.
Lastly, if you know someone with patellar tendonitis, help them get rid of this frustrating injury by sharing the link to this page. I can’t reach everyone myself, so I appreciate your help!
– Martin Koban