Patella tendonitis exercises form part of our Patella tendonitis rehabilitation program. Created by elite sports physiotherapist Paul Tanner it includes stretching & mobility, strengthening, movement control and functional exercises.
What is Patellar tendonitis?
Patellar tendonitis or Jumper’s knee is inflammation of the patella tendon, usually at the point it attaches to the bottom of the patella (kneecap). Symptoms consist of gradual onset pain at the bottom of the patella. Most cases are chronic long-term overuse injuries. As a result, the term Patella tendinopathy is probably a more accurate term to use. This is because degeneration of the tendon, not acute inflammation occurs.
When can I begin Patellar tendonitis exercises?
You can begin Patella tendonitis/Jumper’s knee exercises as soon as possible. Initially, as this is an overuse injury the focus is on stretching and not loading the tendon with strengthening exercises.
Stretching exercises for Patellar tendonitis
Quadriceps stretching exercises in particular are important Patellar tendonitis stretches.
This is a very important Jumper’s knee stretching exercise. Keep your knees together and gently pull your leg up. You should feel a stretch at the front of the leg which should not be painful. Hold onto something for balance if you need to or try holding your ear with the opposite arm. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with a short break in between.
Other stretching exercises
In addition to specific patellar tendonitis stretches, our program also includes stretching exercises for the hamstrings and ankle mobility exercises.
Strengthening exercises for Patellar tendonitis
These exercises specifically target your knee. The aim as you progress through the rehab program is to progressively increase the load through your patella tendon without aggravating it.
Isometric leg press
Isometric exercises mean no movement. Use a leg press machine if possible, or alternatively, hold a bent knee position on the edge of a step. Never go past 90 degrees of knee bend with this exercise as this places too much stress on the patella. Hold each rep for 45 seconds and aim for up to 70% of the maximum weight you can normally press. Start with the weaker/injured leg and do the same but no more on your stronger leg.
Heavy leg press for Patellar tendonitis
This is the most important strengthening exercise in the later phases of our rehab program. A leg press machine is best, but you can do a weighted box squat as a substitute. Add weight so it feels like 70% of your max effort. Perform a slow controlled leg press (no more than 90 deg knee bend). Three seconds concentric (pushing up) and three seconds eccentric (lowering down). Therefore one rep should take 6 seconds.
Step down counterbalance squat front
Only drop as far as is comfortable and use a slow, controlled movement at all times. Make sure you do both legs, not just the injured one.
Perform slow repetitions. Each rep should be 3 seconds concentric (up) and then 3 seconds eccentric (down).
Decline single-leg squat
The aim of this exercise is to increase the load through the patella tendon. Studies show that single-leg squats at decline angles >15° result in a 40% increase in maximum patellar tendon force. Perform on a sloping board or raise your heels on a block or weights disc. Avoid bending the knee more than 60° as this puts larger forces through the patella. Wear a backpack to increase the load if required.
Eccentric leg press
Push up with both legs and lower slowly with one leg.
Eccentric knee extension
To do this exercise you need access to a leg extension machine at a gym.
Other strengthening exercises included in our Jumpers knee rehabilitation program include ankle exercises and activation exercises to keep your hip muscles firing.
Movement control exercises for Patellar tendonitis
These exercises improve your proprioception. This is your body’s ability to sense where parts of it are in space. When you are injured, your proprioception is often damaged. Therefore it is important to do these exercises as part of a Patellar tendonitis exercise program.
Single leg balance
Gym ball bridge
Functional exercises for Patellar tendonitis
Box jump to outside leg
Jump off the box from 2 feet landing on your outside leg. Maintain control of the landing. Hold or ‘stick’ the final position to prove you have control.
Box jump to inside leg
Jump off a box or step with 2 feet and land on your inside leg. Maintain the end position for a couple of seconds.
Lateral box jump
Step sideways over the box, placing both feet on top each time. Keep light and fast on your toes.
Meet the program author
Paul is head of Medical Services at Millwall Football Club, dealing with all aspects of match and training day sports physiotherapy and medical cover.
His career also includes First Team Physio at Norwich City Football Club and Senior physiotherapist to London Wasps Rugby first-team squad.