Working Out With an ACL Injury

ACL injuryACL injuries are the most common sports-related kneed injury.  Many of the cutting and pivoting actions involved in sports can put added stress on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament of the knee (ACL).  An ACL injury is often proceeded by an awkward twisting of the knee and a dreadful popping sound.

The ACL is one of four ligaments that is responsible for stabilizing the knee joint.  The ACL connects your thigh bone (femur) with the lower leg (tibia bone) and is designed to limit the mobility of the knee joint.

An ACL tear can take six or more weeks to heal.  Recovery exercises should be prescribed and supervised by a physical therapist.  Once you have rehabbed your injury, you can return to the gym.  However, you should design your workouts to improve the health of your knee.

Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, says that  it is important to understand that the knee is a stable joint that has the difficult job of functioning between two very mobile joints—the hip and the ankle.  If an athlete loses mobility in the hip or ankle, they can put added stress on the knee.  McCall suggests that trainees who are recovering from knee injuries work on improving the mobility and strength of their hips and ankles along with the stability of their knees.

The exercises below can be added to any workout to help insure your ACL stays healthy.  These exercises are designed to address hip and ankle mobility and strengthen the four muscles critical to knee support: the glutes, quads, hamstring, and calfs.

Post-Rehab exercises for ACL injuries

Fire hydrants

  1. Get on your hands and knees.  Align your wrists with the shoulders and hips with the knees. Brace your core to keep the spine neutral.
  2. Use your knee to draw big circles in the air by rotating at the hip.
  3. Keep your torso neutral as you focus on moving solely through the hip joint.
  4. Do ten on each side.

Wall Ankle Mobilization Drill

  1. Stand a few inches away from a wall and step one foot behind you.
  2. Drive the front leg’s knee toward the wall by bending at the knee and flexing at the ankle. The goal is to lightly tap the wall with your knee.
  3. Move in and out of this flexed position quickly.
  4. Do five reps with each leg, then move back an inch or two and repeat the process.
  5. Go as far back as you can while keeping your heels on the ground.

Hip bridge

  1. Lie on your back. Bend both knees and place your feet on the ground. Keep feet parallel. Extend your arms along your body.
  2. Exhale, press evenly into the soles of your feet, lift your pelvis off the ground, until your hips are fully extend.
  3. Do not arch your back, keep your core engaged and squeeze your glutes throughout the movement.
  4. Keep your knees stacked over your ankles throughout the duration of the exercise.
  5. Hold for 3 seconds, lower down with control.

Wall squat

  1. Stand with back against the wall, feet out in front of body,
  2. slowly lower body to a seated position so knees are bent at a 90° angle,  only go down as far as your can without  pain.
  3. contract the abs toward the spine and activate the glutes as you raise your body back to standing position.
  4. Optionally, this exercise can also be done using an exercise ball placed against the wall and your lower back.

photo by Memphre


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