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12 Knee Fat Exercises to Sculpt Your Legs

7 min read
female legs, knee area, fat above the knees highlighted in red, knee fat exercises
Natasha Caleel post Reviewer Natasha Caleel post Reviewer
Verified by Natasha Caleel
MS in Occupational Therapy, BS in Kinesiology, Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Coach

Table of Contents

Excess fat around the knees can make your legs look less defined, which may lead to low self-esteem when wearing shorts or tiny dresses. Fortunately, there are several ways to address knee fat, such as cardio and strength training exercises and healthy lifestyle habits. 

In this article, we will cover how to get rid of knee fat and tone your legs using the best exercises to sculpt your lower body.

What You Should Know About Knee Fat

Fat accumulation around the knees is usually a result of systemic weight gain, as fat distribution is mostly influenced by overall body fat percentage, and it rarely only targets specific areas. 

For the knees specifically, their overall look and tonicity depend on the level of muscle and body fat present in the surrounding areas, such as the quads, hamstrings, calves, and shins. 

However, other factors can also influence fat accumulation and the look of our legs and knees, such as age, genetics, hormonal imbalances, and lifestyle habits. [1]

12 Knee Fat Exercises to Transform Your Knee Look

Both resistance training and lower-body cardio exercises, such as running, biking or the elliptical, are ideal for tackling the fat around the knees, although some are more effective than others.

Below are some of the most effective exercises and their variations for getting rid of knee fat. Before starting your workout, warm up your legs to prepare muscles and joints for an upcoming routine. Also, add a couple of ankle moves and stretches for bulletproof ankles.


Lunges and all their variations are great exercises for not only tackling inner knee fat but also toning up the inner thighs. If you are a beginner, start with bodyweight lunges, and only add weights once your strength and balance improve.  

#1 Forward lunge: Forward lunges require good balance and core strength. To improve your stability when lunging, step forward following your leg’s natural position rather than placing it closer to your midline.

a woman is doing forward lunge_knee fat exercises

#2 Lunge jump: Lunge jumps are a dynamic lunge variation that tones up muscles and burns excess calories at the same time, so this could be a great option for tackling the fat around your knees. This variation requires good coordination, so it is best to include it in your workouts once you have already mastered the standard stationary lunge. 

a woman is doing lunge jump_knee fat exercises

#3 Curtsy Lunge: When performing this variation, it is important to step back at a 45-degree angle and sink back into your glutes, getting your hips behind you to ensure you don’t hurt your knees and compromise your stability. 

a woman is doing curtsy lunge_knee fat exercises


Above-knee fat can be tackled with exercises that target the quadriceps, such as squats and their variations. If you are new to training, start without weights and gradually add a load once you get stronger. 

#4 Squat with knee-up: Standing on one leg requires good balance and stability, which you can easily achieve by activating your core and performing the movements slowly.

a woman is doing squat to knee up_knee fat exercises

#5 Split squat: Split squats require great muscle endurance and balance. To help improve stability, place your forward leg in line with its natural position in front of the hip, keeping feet parallel and hip-width apart.

a woman is doing split squat_knee fat exercises

#6 Side moving squat: This exercise helps you improve your legs’ muscular endurance, as it requires holding a squat position. When doing this exercise, maintain your squat as low as possible to increase the intensity.

a woman is doing side moving squats_knee fat exercises

#7 Side jump to squat: This dynamic variation requires mobility and coordination, as well as good endurance, making it ideal for those who already have some experience doing squats.

a woman is doing side jump to squat_knee fat exercises

Squats are also great for building the glutes. Check out these weighted glute exercises to complete your lower-body routine.


Step-ups can be a great exercise to increase the muscle tone all around the knees as they work the quadriceps, the calves, and the hamstrings. Start by using only your body weight, and as you get stronger, you can progressively add weight. 

#8 Classic step-ups: When performing this exercise, it is best if you avoid using a bench or step taller than knee height to prevent knee pain. Maintain muscle tension as you step up and down to further activate and work your leg muscles. 

a woman is doing Step-Ups_knee fat exercises

#9 Step-up-down: This variation requires good coordination and concentration as you must swap legs on top of the step or bench. Start by performing this variation slowly, and increase speed as your coordination improves. 

a woman is doing Step_Up_Down_knee fat exercises

Jump Rope

Jumping rope is a high-intensity cardio exercise that can help get rid of fat all around your body, including hard-to-tone areas, such as behind the knee. 

#10 Classic jump rope: The classic jump rope requires good coordination and endurance. Start slow and increase the speed as your coordination improves.

#11 Jump rope Ali shuffle: Due to the shuffling motion, this variation requires higher coordination skills compared to the classic version, making it an ideal progression for this exercise. 

a woman is doing Jump Rope Ali Shuffle_knee fat exercises

#12 One-leg hop: The one-leg hop is a further progression from the classic jump rope, as besides coordination and endurance, it also requires good balance, calf strength, and core strength.

a woman is doing jump rope one leg hop_knee fat exercises

5 More Activities to Combat Knee Fat

You might be surprised how many more activities you can perform to get rid of the fat around your knees. 

Below are some alternative activities that can help you combat knee fat:

  • Brisk walking or walking is a low-impact cardiovascular activity suitable for those suffering from bad knees or hips.
  • Running is a high-intensity and high-impact activity, suitable for those who want stronger legs and do not suffer from any knee or hip pain. You can perform it indoors or outdoors, making it a very versatile exercise.
  • Cycling can be performed at higher or lower intensities based on the speed and resistance applied, making it suitable for most fitness levels and people of all ages. 
  • Stair Climbing is a great low-impact cardiovascular exercise that works your lower body and core. 

Can You Lose Knee Fat by Changing Your Diet?

Changing your diet is another effective way to lose the fat around your knee areas. Specifically, being in a calorie deficit, eating fewer calories than your body requires, is essential to shed fat [2]. You can achieve this by lowering your daily calorie intake, increasing your activity levels, or a combination of both. 

If you want to get rid of the fat around the knees, you must also pay attention to the quality of the foods you eat. Whole foods should make up most of your diet, as they provide you with plenty of nutrients and help you feel fuller longer. [3] On the contrary, recent human trials have found that ultra-processed foods contribute to decreased satiety, increased food consumption, and weight gain. [4]

Wrapping Up

Chubby knees can make your legs look less toned, but luckily, there are plenty of exercises you can do to tackle this issue. 

Here are the main take-home messages about knee fat and exercise:

  • Fat accumulation around the knees is mostly influenced by the body’s total fat percentage and genetics.
  • The tonicity of your calves, hamstrings, shins, and quadriceps, and the amount of fat present in those areas, can affect the overall look of your knees and make them appear more or less toned.
  • Other things that can affect knee fat accumulation and the look of your legs include age, hormonal imbalances, lifestyle habits, and genetics.
  • Behind-knee fat can be tackled with high-intensity cardio exercises, such as rope jumping.
  • Several lower-body exercises can reduce knee fat, including lunges, squats, step-ups, and all their variations.
  • Brisk walking, running, cycling, cross training, and the stair climber can also help you reduce knee fat.
  • Being in a calorie deficit and mostly eating whole foods is essential to lose weight and reduce the fat around your knees.
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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