Knee Replacement Exercises to Try After Surgery

Table of Contents

Following partial or total knee replacement surgery, many patients are anxious to get back on their feet. The safest and quickest way to return to normal activities and aid in a full recovery is by completing regular knee replacement exercises. 

But how long should you do exercises after knee replacement? The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends exercise for 20 to 30 minutes two to three times daily following knee surgery. 

Not sure where to start? Here are some tips and knee replacement exercises to help you rebuild your strength and recover as quickly as possible.

Precautions & Safety Measures to Take

Knee replacement exercises can help you have a more effective recovery, but only if you complete them correctly. We recommend taking the following precautions before beginning your exercise routine.

  • Communicate with your doctor to avoid further injury.
  • Take it slow, and let your knee build strength before increasing exercise intensity.
  • Ensure you’re utilizing the proper form.
  • If exercise becomes painful, take it as a sign that you’re moving too fast. If pain does occur, check out our tips on how to relieve it.

It can be difficult for patients to differentiate between pain and soreness. Our blog on muscle pain versus soreness can help you discern what you may be experiencing to prevent further injury.

Exercises for Knee Joints

There are a variety of knee replacement exercises patients should perform to strengthen their recovering knee and have a well-rounded recovery period.

Range of Motion Exercises

Reestablishing a range of motion after your procedure will allow you to complete daily activities with increased comfort. A few range of motion exercises include the following.

Ankle Pumps

  1. Lie with your back flat and legs relaxed.
  2. Flex your feet with your toes up so that your soles are flat.
  3. Point your toes, pressing down as if you are pressing a gas pedal.
  4. Maintain each position for about 3 to 5 seconds, and then return your toes upright.
  5. Repeat for a few reps, being sure to stop before experiencing pain. If comfortable, perform this exercise a few times a day.

Heel Slides

  1. Lie on the floor or bed with your legs flat.
  2. Keeping your heel flat on the floor or bed, pull your recovering leg to your glutes, bending your knee upwards. Pull until you feel slight pressure in your knee.
  3. Hold the position for about 6 seconds.
  4. Slowly slide your leg outward, allowing it to become flat again next to your other leg.
  5. Repeat this exercise a few times in a row, several times per day, as your body allows.

Knee Bends

  1. Lie on the floor or bed with your legs flat, slightly apart.
  2. Slowly bend your recovering knee upwards toward your chest.
  3. Hold the position for around 6 seconds.
  4. Repeat for a few reps. Perform this exercise a few times daily.

Once you have progressed in your healing, you can practice knee bends as assisted squats or freestanding squats.

Knee Strengthening Exercises

Knee strengthening exercises are meant to restore strength to your joint. Some knee replacement exercises to build back strength include the following.

Quadriceps Sets

  1. Sit on the floor or bed with your recovering leg stretched out in front of you.
  2. Pressing the back of your knee into the bed or floor, tighten the muscles in the top of your thigh.
  3. Hold this position for 6 seconds.
  4. Repeat a few times in a row, several times per day.

Straight Leg Raises

  1. Sitting or lying on the floor or bed with your recovering leg straight and the opposite leg bent, flex the foot of your recovering leg and point the toes straight up.
  2. Tighten your thigh muscles, and raise your recovering leg a few inches off the floor or bed.
  3. Try holding this position for 10 seconds. 
  4. Repeat for a few reps. Remember to stop if you experience any pain.

Hamstring Curls

  1. Lying down, bend your recovering knee slightly.
  2. Tighten the muscles in the back of the thigh while pressing down with the heel.
  3. Hold this position for a count of 5 seconds.
  4. If comfortable, repeat for a few reps a few times daily.

Calf Raises

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly raise your heels, and hold the position for a few seconds.
  3. Slowly lower your heels back to the ground.
  4. Repeat for a few reps a few times daily.

You can also do assisted calf raises by holding onto a nearby wall or chair.

Advanced Methods for the Best Results

At The Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale, we combine compassionate care with state-of-the-art technology to provide you with the best possible outcome for total and partial knee replacements.

Balance and Coordination

Restoring balance and coordination following knee replacement surgery is essential to prevent injury. Complete balance and coordination practices once you feel well-recovered from your surgery. 

Here are a few balance and coordination exercises to try after knee replacement that don’t require any special equipment.

Single-leg Stance

  1. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, place your hands on your hips.
  2. Lift your leg up, bending it back at the knee.
  3. Maintaining good form, hold this position for 30 seconds.
  4. If comfortable, repeat this exercise a few times a day.


  1. Pushing through your leading foot, lift your body onto a step.
  2. Step back into the starting position.
  3. You may complete this with your recovering leg or alternate between both legs.
  4. Complete this exercise a few times daily.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi can be a fun and effective way to regain your balance and coordination following knee replacement surgery. See more on Tai Chi and how to practice it here

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercise is an effective tool to help your body make a full recovery post surgery. Here are a few aerobic exercises that may assist you in your recovery process.


Walking can feel like a lofty goal following knee replacement surgery. It is, however, a highly favorable exercise method for those who are no longer experiencing too much pain or discomfort.

Simply walking a few minutes a day will help speed your recovery.

Stationary Cycling

Stationary cycling is a lower-impact alternative to walking that still provides many great benefits. Those who are still experiencing some pain and discomfort following surgery may opt for stationary cycling over walking.


Swimming is a zero-impact form of exercise and is a great option for enhancing range of motion and building back strength following a knee replacement. Try to start here if you are still experiencing a great deal of pain or discomfort.

Making Exercises More Effective

Knee replacement exercises are only effective if they’re done correctly. Below are some tips to help ensure you get the most from your exercise efforts.

Frequency and Duration

Following knee replacement surgery, exercise should be a daily practice. Set aside at least 20-30 minutes per day for post-surgery exercise, and aim for more frequent sessions if you feel like your body is up for it.

Warm Up and Cool Down

It is essential to warm up properly before any exercise, and cooling down for recovery is just as important. Consider doing some light to moderate stretching before and after performing any exercises.

Importance of Proper Form

Using improper form while exercising could lead to more harm than good. Speak with your doctor if you have questions regarding the correct form.

Schedule Your Knee Replacement in Scottsdale

Knee replacement surgery and recovery can sound daunting. Luckily, you don’t have to go through either stage alone. We’re here to help.

Request an appointment to learn more about the process and get your questions answered.