Throughout my 25-year career, I have specialized in developing targeted workouts to address specific problem areas, such as excess knee fat.
My tried-and-true exercises to reduce knee fat and build lean muscle have helped clients transform their bodies and achieve their fitness goals.
In this article, I’ll share insights on the best exercises for losing knee fat, discuss the benefits and risks of these workouts, and explain how they fit into a well-rounded fitness routine.
Let’s get started.
- Key exercises for reducing knee fat, such as running, biking, and jumping rope, are essential for targeting various aspects of leg strength and enhancing toning.
- A well-rounded approach to shedding knee fat involves not only a fitness plan with cardio and strength-training exercises but also emphasizes the importance of proper nutrition.
- Research published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reveals that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is superior in reducing fat mass by 12.4% compared to continuous endurance training.
- Based on my professional experience, the most effective strategy for diminishing knee fat and enhancing leg aesthetics is to maintain a consistent exercise regimen coupled with a nutritious diet.
Best Exercises to Target Knee Fat
From my experience, losing weight not only leads to shapelier legs but also significantly reduces knee pain, a common issue among my clients.
To achieve it, you should implement a fitness plan with cardio, strength-training exercises, and proper nutrition.
Yet, though you cannot spot-reduce knee fat, the following exercises will reduce your overall body fat percentage and improve muscle tone.
Run Or Jog
Running and jogging effectively burn calories and strengthen the front area around the knees.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) resulted in a greater reduction in fat mass compared to continuous endurance training.
In fact, the study found that fat mass decreased by 12.4% with HIIT and by 5.8% with continuous training (CET) .
Therefore, try these HIIT workouts for running:
- Timed Sprints: Do short bursts of running for ten seconds, followed by two minutes of a light jog. Start with four rounds and increase as you get stronger.
- Cardio Intervals: For 30–60 seconds, run at a hard pace, followed by 2–5 minutes of jogging at a leisurely pace, during which you can still maintain a conversation. Repeat the cycle based on your fitness level.
- Hill Repeats: Run up a gentle hill or adjust the incline on a treadmill to 10–20%. Walk back down slowly. Repeat four rounds, gradually increasing the number of rounds.
However, running and jogging are high-impact activities that are tough on the knee joints, so if you have existing knee injuries, consider a low-impact option.
Ride A Bike
Biking is a good cardio exercise and provides toning benefits for the quads, thighs, and calves.
I often recommend biking to my clients as a low-impact alternative to running, especially for those with knee pain or leg injuries.
Like running, there are two options when biking: interval and long-distance training.
Incorporate both into your workout routine to burn fat and get the maximum benefit from the leg muscles.
Lunges, hands-down, are one of the best lower-body exercises that target the front muscles of the legs.
Strengthening and toning the quadriceps with lunges helps to tighten the entire leg, including the knees and glutes.
Traditional lunges involve stepping one leg forward until the knee is at a 90-degree angle, keeping the upper body straight. You can increase reps or hold dumbbells for added resistance.
“The stronger you can make your hips with lunges (and other lower body exercises), the less likely it is that your knees will become the victim of pain and injury.”
-Susane Pata, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
Learn More: Best Lunge Alternatives for Bad Knees
I always include squats in workout routines due to their effectiveness in targeting quadriceps and aiding in leg toning, which I've observed in numerous client transformations.
As a bonus, squats help tone up the glutes as well.
Squats involve standing with feet shoulder-width apart and lowering the body toward the floor as if to sit in a chair.
Start with 12 squats and build up to more sets as strength increases.
A good weighted jumping rope is an effective calorie burner because it works the entire body.
Not only does jumping rope provide a great way to lose excess fat, it also helps tone and strengthen the legs.
The technique is more important than the speed in this full-body workout. Land with your knees slightly bent to avoid injury and use softer surfaces rather than concrete or asphalt.
Since it’s a high-impact exercise, it’s best suited for individuals with healthy knees.
Jumping rope is best done in short bursts as part of a circuit training program or as a warm-up for weightlifting or strength exercises.
I encourage walking in my fitness plans as it's a low-impact, highly beneficial activity for reducing body fat and toning lower-body muscles.
You can increase aerobic conditioning, heart health, and endurance by walking faster, farther, and more frequently.
According to the Mayo Clinic, walking provides numerous health benefits, including greater knee strength .
Other benefits include:
- Increases energy
- Helps manage chronic conditions
- Strengthens immune system
- Improves balance
- Helps manage weight
- Reduces stress
- Improves mood
- Strengthens bones
- Improves muscular endurance
- Promotes losing fat
- Improves sleep quality
Alternating periods of brisk and leisurely walking (interval training) take less time and have the benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness and calories burned.
Nevertheless, remember to protect your knees during any of the exercises mentioned above by wearing appropriate shoes, performing exercises on soft surfaces, bending knees without going past toes, resting when needed, and taking days off between workouts.
Related: Does Walking Burn Fat
How Long Will It Take To Fix Fatty Knees?
How long it will take to fix fatty knees depends on how much overall stored fat you have.
You likely have a lot of body fat accumulation if you want to get rid of fat around your knees.
So keep in mind that fat loss is not a race; patience and consistency are crucial to success. Exercise, particularly HIIT, will build muscle and stamina to speed up metabolism.
You are looking at a minimum of 12 weeks of dedicated diet and exercise to start reducing fatty knees.
In my professional experience, combining cardio and strength training with proper nutrition is the most effective approach to losing fat, including around the knees.
Incorporate a healthy diet of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Besides exercise, the key to fat loss is to eat fewer calories.
“To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories or exercising, but preferably both.”
- Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD
It's also essential to consider overall knee health when attempting to reduce the fat around your knees, as you don’t want to risk injury.
Therefore, creating a personalized exercise routine that caters to individual fitness levels and specific knee concerns is key to effectively targeting and reducing knee fat.
For those with knee concerns, consider low-impact exercises like water workouts .
Yet, beyond diet and exercise, you have several other options to get rid of fat cells in the knee area.
- Knee liposuction
- Laser therapy
- Light therapy
What Causes Fat Around The Knees?
The causes of fat around the knees include things like aging, hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause, inactivity, and weight gain. You can lose knee fat by decreasing overall subcutaneous fat.
Is It Easy To Lose Knee Fat?
It isn’t easy to lose knee fat because you can’t spot-reduce fat but must focus on overall body fat reduction. You can, however, do specific exercises that target the muscle groups in the leg to promote muscle mass and tone.
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