Strength training for painful legs

5 graded exercises, 15 minutes a day for 4 weeks 

Children with movement difficulties, especially those with joint hypermobility (low muscle tone) often complain of muscle or joint pain in the legs, either after exercise or at night when there is no apparent injury or swelling. The most common cause for the pain is muscle tightness and weakness.

Research has shown that strengthening the leg muscles in children with joint hypermobility not only reduces the pain experienced by children, but also reduces the risk of injury to the joints and prevents subluxation of joints. 

Muscles that are stronger also tire less quickly, so that the child can tolerate more exercise before experiencing the discomfort that goes with having very tired muscle. 

A strength training program that uses movement patterns similar to those used in everyday activities such as walking, running, and stair climbing has the added benefit of training coordination and strengthening the ligaments and well improving proprioceptive feedback. 

The other benefit of engaging in an exercise program that is challenging and requires effort increases the child's self confidence and willingness to keep going

Importance of training children to tolerate effort 

Children with joint hypermobility and a cautious nature will often not like the sensations that arise from effortful physical activity: the discomfort in the muscles, the fast beating heart and rapid breathing. 

Cautious children need to learn to distinguish between sensations of effort ie discomfort in muscles and the pain that arises from injury. Discomfort from strenuous exercise is GOOD. It means that the muscles are working hard and getting stronger. It is not a sign of injury. If a child is weak and unfit, even mildly strenuous activity will lead to a measure of discomfort and avoidance, promoting a vicious downwards spiral. 

How hard can I push my child?

As a parent-coach you need to carefully gage how much to push your child to work a little harder.  If you start slowly, keep the load relatively light and make time for daily training sessions you will quickly get an idea of how much your child can do without provoking pain after exercise and pain at night. A little bit is OK - a lot is not a good idea. You may need to retreat a little and build up more slowly. 

But do not give up. Do not be disheartened too quickly. 

Important: Before your start: 

Please consult your child's health care provider before starting on an exercise program.

If your child experiences a flare up of joint pain with swelling and skin warmth (a sign of inflammation) take a break until the acute inflammation dies down. Consult your doctor or physical therapist for advise on how to proceed. 

For subscribers A training program for children experiencing leg pain

A set of 5 graded exercises with instructions for increasing load over a period of 4 weeks.

step-up-2.jpgStepping up and down on a step (steps ups)


step down 1.jpgStepping down from a step 

bend-knees.jpgHalf squats for knee strength

Stand one leg support foot  on box_0.jpgStanding on one leg: for balance and hip muscle strength

standing broad jump 1.jpgJumping between cushions 

For strength, power, coordination and stamina 

More ideas for training leg muscle strength, coordination and agility


The content on this site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Please consult your child's health care provider before embarking on an exercise program. 


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Read more about 
Low Muscle Tone Handbook (PDF downloads) 
Training coordination for everyday activities 
Training strength and flexibility - exercise instructions 

Disclaimer  The content on this site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. All liability is excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law in respect of any loss or damage whether direct, indirect or consequential that arises in connection with the use of or reliance upon any content forming part of this site.