knee extension exercises prehab guys

Knee Extension Exercises for Terminal Knee Extension

Regaining full terminal knee extension is paramount following any knee surgery. The ability to fully extend the knee equal to the other side is usually one of the most important early goals in knee rehab. While there are a ton of knee extension exercises you can do, the most important variable for regaining full terminal knee extension is the amount of volume and time spent working on knee extension. That is undeniably the most important concept to grasp. 3 sets of 1 min of stretches for a total of 3 minutes (out of 1440 minutes in a day aka 0.2% of the day)  it just not enough end range stretching to regain full knee extension! Aim for a total of 10 minutes of knee extension exercises at first, then slowly keep adding time until you’re spending at least 30 minutes a day working on terminal knee extension.

Knee Extension Exercises & Tips

Knee extension exercises, especially after surgery, are not going to be comfortable. If they are comfortable, it probably means you’re not doing them correctly! Regardless of the surgery, there will be joint swelling, or effusion, in the knee that will not only cause more pain and discomfort but also limit the amount of motion available at the knee joint. Furthermore, the muscles around the knee will most likely be tense and guarded, meaning soft tissue work and stretching are also warranted. When working on terminal knee extension during your knee extension exercises, try to hold the position or stretch for as long as possible. That may be a few minutes or just 20 seconds! The goal is to work to that uncomfortable phase, then let your knee bend and relax for a minute or two, and then go right back to the knee extension exercise again. The more time you can spend in that end range stretch the better!
READ: Knee Surgery Prehab Exercises


Passive Knee Extension Exercises

First, work on regaining full passive knee extension. Passive knee extension is the amount of knee extension/straightening that your knee has if you prop up your foot on a table or chair, letting your knee be suspended in the air.


Seated Knee Extension PROM

Knee Extension with Overpressure


Bang Hangs Knee Extension

Knee Extension Overhaul [P]Rehab Program

This program is for anyone looking to truly [P]Rehab their knee before surgery OR work on regaining their knee extension after a surgery or injury. It’s appropriate for anyone regardless of current fitness level and will build you from the ground up to tolerate the end ranges of knee extension. For more about this program click HERE.


Active Knee Extension Exercises

It’s extremely important to follow up any passive knee extension exercise with active knee exercise exercises to “lock-in” that hopefully newly acquired knee extension range. While the standing terminal knee extension (TKE) is the classic go-to exercise for active knee extension, there are a plethora of other options as well. The key component to every single one of them is to fire your quadriceps muscle and squeeze it as HARD as you can. Your goal should be to try to feel a stretch behind the knee. Think of standing tall with each repetition!

Standing 3-Way Terminal Knee Extension


Sled Pushes

Down Dog Knee Extension TKE

Retro Walking

Quad Sets with a Strap


Prone Hips Supported TKE


Cueing for TKE with any closed chain knee exercise (squats, lunge, step-up)



Looking for Knee [P]Rehab?

The program itself is a 12-week, 3-phase program designed to rebuild your knees from the ground up. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, competitive athlete, superhero parent, or just someone interested in improving their knee health, you can 100% benefit from this program. We make it easy and teach you how to self [P]Rehab your knees and keep them healthy for anything life throws at you through detailed exercise programming and our signature resource videos.

knee prehab program phases

  • Rebecca Macijowsky
    Posted at 06:23h, 16 December Reply

    I had my left knee replaced in October 2017 & the right in May 2018. I walk every day, & I will admit don’t do enough exercise. My knees feel “tight” some days, would these classes help with that.

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 19:34h, 13 January Reply

      Yes they would! movement is medicine! Give them a shot and let us know how it goes!

  • Linda Sumner
    Posted at 15:35h, 01 August Reply

    I’m curious about the step back into a low lunge and then back to 1 legged stance (last video) – why step back at a 45 degree angle? Seems this might twist the front knee and is not a good idea for a “hinge” joint? But am eager to hear your rationale!
    Thank you, these are great videos/tutorials.

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 17:54h, 14 September Reply

      Totally fine! The movement is primarily in the sagittal plane as the knee joint is a hinge joint. However, there will always be some rotation as the knee moves from extensino to flexion that is normal!

  • Mert Sarıışık
    Posted at 14:03h, 18 September Reply

    I had acl surgery 2 years ago. At first i regained full symmetrical knee extension. But after 2 months i lost the progress and never get back. Now i have full knee extension on my acl leg but not symmetrical with other leg. Also i have pelvic instability. My right knee is locked in valgus position and feet laterally rotated. I sometimes feel if this position (alignment) limits the extension range. Can it be?

    Also, is it possible to regain symmetrical knee extension back after a long time from the surgery? İ heard that it is not possible to get VMO muscle back if you don’t have symmetrical extension. İs this correct?

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 16:28h, 18 September Reply

      Hi Mert,

      Yes, it can be possible to regain full symmetrical knee extension even after a long period after surgery – you won’t know until you try! VMO is just a muscle…you have it! Everyone has it. Any active extension exercise will hit it! We have a knee extension prehab program with tons of programming if youre interested in learning more:

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