Best Exercises for Patellar Tendinopathy

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on March 05, 2023
4 min read

Patellar tendinopathy happens when the patella, the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shinbone, is torn or injured. Stress on the tendon causes tiny tears, which are usually small enough for your body to manage, but too many tears become painful and require medical attention. This kind of repetition injury commonly occurs in athletes and especially in sports that involve a lot of jumping. In fact, it happens so commonly that patellar tendinitis is commonly called “jumper’s knee”.

Even if you aren’t a professional volleyball player, you should keep an eye on your knees. Other risk factors for developing patellar tendinopathy include general physical exercise particularly if it’s repetitive or if you’re just started a new routine and are training on concrete or high-impact areas. In addition, weight can be a factor, because your weight causes increased pressure on the knees. 

To treat patellar tendinopathy, doctors will prescribe physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and help you retain full range of movement. Physical therapy remedies include stretching, strengthening, a knee brace, or potentially iontophoresis, a small electric shock therapy, delivered to your whole body. 

Strengthening and stretching your lower body muscle groups will help in the recovery of patellar tendinopathy. Ways to do that include eccentric exercise programs, weight management, cross-training, and other aerobics or cardio training.

These exercises are meant to be slow and deliberate, so don’t rush. The goal is to strengthen your muscles and improve range of motion.  

Quadriceps and Hamstring Stretch

These stretches are meant to strengthen the two main muscles in your knee, your quadriceps and hamstring. This will reduce tightness around your patella tendon. Focus on stretching both legs.

Quadricep Stretch:

Step 1: Support yourself on a wall and stand on one leg.

Step 2: Bend the other knee as far back as you can.

Step 3: Hold for as long as possible, aiming for 15 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 1 minute. You’ll feel a stretch in the front of your thigh on your bent leg. 

Hamstring Stretch:

Step 1: Lie on your back and raise one leg as far as you can.

Step 2: Keep your leg straight with your knee locked and pull your knee into your chest with your hands behind your knee.

Step 3: Hold for as long as possible, aiming for 15 seconds building to 1 minute. You’ll feel a stretch at the back of your thigh on the stretch leg. 

Straight Leg Lift

This exercise is meant to be repeated daily to strengthen your patellar tendon and improve range of motion.

Step 1: Lie flat on your back, making sure your impacted knee is flat and straight. Tighten your quadricep muscles and lift your leg 45 degrees off the ground. Hold for one to five seconds. 

Step 2:  Slowly lower your leg back to the ground and relax your muscles and tendon. 

Repeat two to three sets, with 10 repetitions each. 

Wall Slides

These exercises should be done daily to improve range of motion and strengthen the patellar tendon. 

Step 1: Stand upright with your back and glutes touching a wall. Place feet shoulder width apart and six inches from the wall. 

Step 2: Bend your knees and slowly lower your hips down the wall until your knees are at a 45-degree angle. Hold for five seconds. 

Step 3: Slowly slide back up to your starting position. 

Repeat two to three sets, with 10 to 15 repetitions. 

Drop Squats

This eccentric exercise is meant to relieve your knee pain. This exercise will strengthen your tendons.

Step 1: Begin standing with feet hip-width apart.

Step 2: Slowly lower your glutes toward the ground while keeping your feet and knees stable. 

Step 2: Once you’ve lowered as far as you can go without pain in your knee, slowly lift back up to your starting position. 

Repeat two to three sets, with 10 repetitions each. 

Single Leg Knee Bends

This exercise should be slow and deliberate, as many stretching and strength-building exercises are. You will start with slight movements and build to deeper movements.

Step 1: Stand on your affected leg, with your other leg bent slightly behind you and lifted off the ground — you can start by dragging your leg back until only your toes touch the ground, then lift it just a bit higher. 

Step 2: Squat down on your affected leg until you feel slight pain in your knee. 

Step 3: Slowly put your weight onto your good leg and stand up. 

Repeat two to three sets, with 10 repetitions each. 

Recovering from patellar tendinopathy can be a slow process, but it’s important to do exercises like these daily to strengthen your muscles and improve your range of motion. 

If any of the exercises become painful, stop immediately and reduce the level of activity you are doing. To try to prevent patellar tendinopathy, try warming up and stretching before exercise, wearing knee supports, and doing daily exercise