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Your leg muscles may feel weak after knee replacement surgery. The surgery may have corrected the underlying problem, but you’ll still need to balance out the strength of your legs and tighten your quadriceps muscles through physical therapy, cardio, and strength exercises. Here are the best exercises for building quad muscles after surgery to help you do just that.

What to Expect After Knee Surgery

After you’ve had knee surgery, you’ll likely be in a lot of pain and won’t be able to move much. You may also experience secondary conditions such as quad activation failure. With quad activation failure, the nervous system stops regular neural messaging to the muscle to protect it from pressure during movement. If left untreated, quad activation failure can lead to increased pain levels and decreased range of motion-a dangerous combination for anyone living with a knee condition.

Building Quad Muscles After Knee Surgery

The following exercises are excellent for building quad muscles after knee surgery. They will help you tighten your quadriceps and bend your knee without putting undue pressure on your joints.


Step-ups are simple exercises that double as both conditioning and resistance training. They work on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles of the buttocks while also building strength in your legs.

To do step-ups:

  • Stand in front of some stairs, placing one hand on the handrail.
  • Lift and bend your recovering leg, placing your foot on the first stair.
  • Step onto this first stair and press into it, straightening your knee; hold this position for a few seconds.
  • Bend your recovering knee and lower yourself back into the first position putting both feet on the floor.

Quad Short Arcs

Quad short arcs are beneficial for increasing strength and improving the range of motion in your knee joint.

To do this exercise:

  • Lie on your back on a hard surface, bending your healthy knee.
  • Place a rolled-up towel under your bad knee.
  • Tighten your quadricep muscles by pressing your knee into the towel.
  • Lift your heel off the hard surface you are lying on without lifting your knee off the towel.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds, then lower your heel, increasing the resistance on your quadriceps.

Quad Squeezes

Quad squeezes are a great way to make your quadriceps muscles work harder. When you squeeze, the muscle contracts and releases more blood flow. Improved circulation will help with flexibility and get all of those tiny fibers working hard.

To perform a quad squeeze:

  • Lie on your back on a hard surface and extend your recovering leg while bending your healthy leg at the knee.
  • Roll up a towel and put it under your recovering knee, bending the knee joint slightly.
  • Activate the quad as you gently press the knee down into the towel.
  • Hold the muscle and squeeze for approximately 5 seconds, and then release fully.

Wall Squats

It is best to wait until six weeks or more after knee replacement surgery before attempting wall squats. They help strengthen your calf muscles and hamstring, so it’s worth the waiting period.

To perform this exercise:

  • Stand with your back against the wall.
  • Place your feet 12 to 18 inches away from the wall and at the width of your hips.
  • Slide your back down the wall and bend your knees to a 45-degree angle slowly.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds, and then repeat slowly.

Other Exercises Perfect For Building Quad Muscles After Surgery

As a high-intensity and low-impact exercise, rowing is also an excellent option to build up your quad muscles after surgery. Rowers can also control how intense they want to work out by adjusting breaks in the rowing machine between their strokes, which makes rowing an easy workout for anyone.

Final Thoughts

Developing an effective exercise plan for building quad muscles after surgery with your physical therapist is crucial.

In fact, whether or not you have had knee surgery, workouts for people with bad knees will improve your health in many oher ways as well.

For more information about recovering from knee surgery and what you can do to safely promote healing, speak to orthopedic specialists or physical therapists familiar with these procedures. They will give you valuable tips on how you might recover faster and what exercises would best help you along the way.

The material on this website is intended for educational information purposes only.  It should not substitute or delay medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.