Patellar Tendonitis Exercises

Jumpers knee exercises

The following Jumper’s knee or Patellar tendonitis exercises form part of our full step-by-step rehabilitation program.

Meet the program author

Paul Tanner

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.

Paul Tanner Patellar tendonitis exercises

The full Jumper’s knee rehab program comprises four phases.

  1. Acute stage
  2. Isometric exercises
  3. Heavy slow resistance
  4. Eccentric loading

Phase 1 Patellar tendonitis exercises

Phase 1 begins as soon as possible after injury along side Patellar tendonitis treatment. During this phase, the aim is to reduce pain and swelling. However, there are a number of exercises you can still do during phase 1.

The following Jumper’s knee exercises form part of our full rehab program and are done alongside treatment methods including rest, cold therapy, taping/bracing, and foam roller.

Only move onto phase 2 when you have achieved the Exit Criteria for this phase.

Patellar tendonitis stretches

Stretching the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh is the most important of our Patellar tendonitis stretches. You should stretch regularly thoughout the day if pain allows.

Quadriceps stretch

Quadriceps stretch - jumper's knee exercises

This stretch is especially important for Patella tendonitis.

  • 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
  • Aim to do this exercise 1-2 times per day
  • This should be comfortable, don’t force the stretch

The following exercises are not specifically Patellar tendonitis stretches but help keep you in good physical condition.

Hamstring stretch

Standing static hamstring stretch

You can stretch your hamstring muscles in a variety of ways. This is a simple static stretch.

  • Stand on one leg with the other resting on a bench or similar.
  • Ease into the stretch and hold.

Active ankle mobility

Ankle mobility exercise

This involves simply bending and straightening your ankle as far as is comfortable. The aim is to maintain joint mobility.

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Cold therapy

Hip flexor stretch

This exercise stretches the iliopsoas muscle and rectus femoris. Be careful to use a mat or padding under the painful knee so as not to aggravate it.

  • Place one knee on the floor and the other foot out in front with the knee bent.
  • Push your hips forward and keep your back upright – You should feel a stretch at the front of the hip and upper thigh.
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times and stretch at least 3 times a day.

Activation exercises

Again, these are not specific Patellar tendonitis exercises but they are very important for making sure your hip and gluteal muscles do not ‘switch off’ whilst you are unable to train normally. You can do these exercises daily, or at least 3 times per week.

Clam in flexion

Jumper's knee  Activation exercises Clam
  • Raise and lower your knee, making sure your hips do not rotate backward whilst performing this exercise.
  • Do 4 sets of 30 seconds with a short rest in between.

Clam in extension

Patellar tendonitis exercises Clam in extension
  • Raise and lower your knee, making sure your hips do not rotate backward whilst performing this exercise.
  • Do 4 sets of 30 seconds with a short rest in between.

Double leg bridge

Double leg bridge
  • Raise your hips up and hold for a couple of seconds before lowering.
  • Do 3 sets of 12 reps with a short break between sets.

Patellar tendonitis strengthening

These exercises aim to strengthen specific muscle groups. It is too early to begin Patellar tendonitis exercises which overload your injured knee. Therefore, the priority in phase 1 is calf muscle strengthening.

Single leg calf holds

Single leg calf holds Patellar tendonitis exercises

Stand on the edge of a step and allow all your weight onto one leg. This exercise is isometric, meaning it does not involve any movement.

  • Start with 5 sets of 15-second holds, building to 5 sets of 45-second holds.

Movement control

These are not specific Patellar tendonitis exercises. However, they are important for maintaining and improving proprioception and coordination. They can be done daily.

Gym ball bridge

Gym ball bridge jumper's knee exercises
  • Perform 3 sets of 8 reps with your legs up on a gym ball (if available).
  • If not, then a chair is ok instead.

Single leg stand

Single leg balance
  • Stand on one leg for 20 seconds and repeat 4 times.
  • If you find this too easy then close your eyes.
  • Or use a wobble board or cushion to make it even more difficult.

Exit Criteria

You are ready to move on to phase 2 when:

  • Normal daily activities including walking and stairs (down) are pain-free.
  • You can do 10 double-leg squats pain-free.

Phase 2 Patellar tendonitis exercises

This is the isotonic exercise phase. Here you begin to perform strengthening exercises that involve movement.

The aim of phase 2 is to gradually increase the load through your knee. It is important to continue Patellar tendonitis stretches from phase 1.

It consists of 14 exercises covering stretching, activation, strengthening, movement control, functional and conditioning. You also begin running again during phase 2.

You are ready to move on to phase 3 when you can do:

  • Single leg squat 3 x 10 reps
  • Three hops with no pain during, after or the following day

Phase 3 Patellar tendonitis exercises

This is the heavy slow resistance phase.

The aim of phase 3 is to further increase the load through your knee. Therefore, in addition to the treatment methods phase 3 consists of 21 exercises. The exercises are more dynamic and challenging than earlier phases.

You are ready to move on to phase 4 when you can:

  • Perform all running pain free
  • Accelerate and deccelerate pain free
  • Hop pain free
  • Perform single leg squats to 90 degrees

Phase 4 Patellar tendonitis exercises

This is the eccentric loading phase. It is eccentric strengthening exercises that are most important for Jumper’s knee.

Phase 4 consists of 13 exercises including progressive running drills. It is aimed at getting you back to full competition fitness.

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