Pilates for Knee Replacement Recovery: Phase 1

Whether you are a Pilates instructor or have undergone a knee replacement, we all want to maintain knee function and longevity. If you have had knee surgery, a gentle Pilates practice can assist you in your recovery.

In his new Knee Health series, The Injured Knee and Its Recovery, Dr. Brent Anderson, Physical Therapist and Founder of Polestar Pilates, notes that the knee is one of the most complex joints in the body.

The two primary movements of the knee are flexion and extension, which influence the bending and straightening of the knee, respectively. Engaging in these movements through Pilates can assist you in the beginning stages of your recovery, commonly known as Phase I.

We highly recommend consulting a health care professional before starting a new exercise program.

What is Phase I?

Phase I marks the first 1-2 weeks after your surgery. During this time, your goal is to perform basic tasks, such as getting in and out of bed, showering, and walking. Before attending in-person physical therapy, these exercises can be beneficial in finding new strength and movement in your knees and ankles. Pain and clearance permitting, Dr. Anderson recommends following these at-home, Mat Pilates exercises for Phase I.


Knee Bends and Heel Slides

Common during Phase I, Dr. Anderson recommends heel slides shortly after surgery. By engaging the hamstrings and knee flexors, your muscles will become reacquainted with your newfound knee function after surgery.


Laying on your side with your knees gently bent, the clamshells exercise can gently reacquaint you with knee function. Keeping your pelvis still, you will strengthen your hip rotators. This exercise is particularly helpful in easing into daily functioning and movement. For extra cushion and support, you may put a pillow in between the knees.

Heel Kicks

On your stomach, open up the hips and quadriceps in heel kicks. Using your hamstrings to bring the heels up, you will begin to engage the thigh muscles for knee function.

Quarter Squats

Using a bedpost or countertop as support, gently bend and raise the knees in a quarter squat. You will not only mold the soft tissue around your knee, but also increase blood flow throughout the body, assisting ankle and knee mobility.

We hope these tips have been helpful in your practice. You can find the full demonstration of exercises in Dr. Anderson's Post-Surgery Protocol tutorial. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience, leave a comment below!

Heather McPherson
About the Author

Heather McPherson

Heather McPherson is the Social Media Coordinator for Pilates Anytime. She is an avid musician, writer, and traveler, who resides in Los Angeles, CA.


2 people like this.
Thank you for providing multiple options for post knee replacement! PT did not offer as much.  This is extremely helpful and will be experimenting with all.  Thank you!

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