The road to ACL recovery can be a long and testing one, with everyone's being different. So we've written 3 really good exercises to help you strengthen your's. The following exercises are for those with some mobility and not those in the early stages of recovery or post-operative patients.
But don't worry if you're not at the stage where you can use them yet... bookmark this page and use them to speed up your recovery later on!!
1. Heel Drops
Stand on a step on one leg. Using your arms for balance, slightly bend your standing leg so that your raised heel drops below the level of the step. Tap the step below (or the floor) with your hanging heel, raise back up to the starting position. Do not put your weight into the step below, just tap it and raise up again.
You can make it harder by holding something weighted in your hands or make the surface unstable by placing a pillow under your standing foot. If you are doing this, make sure it is safe to do so and you are not at risk of falling and causing further injury!
Alternatively, to make it easier, perform the exercise the same but only step down slightly so your heel just goes past the step.
2. Single Leg Balancing
Stand on one leg... wobble. It sounds simple but the tiny movements you do to adjust your balance will strengthen the small connective tissues in your knee and ankle.
To make it harder, reduce the stability of the surface you're standing on. You can stand on a pillow, specifically designed balance cushion, Bosu ball or trampoline. Closing your eyes will also challenge your balance to make it slightly more difficult.
To make it easier, break it down into small timed chunks. For example if you can't manage to balance for 60 seconds, break it down int to 2 x 30s, 4 x 15s or 6 x 10s etc...
TIP: Get a friend to throw you a ball or something while you're balancing. This will make it less boring and challenge your balance. If you're a footballer, you can get them to throw you a football to head back.
3. Hamstring Slides
On a smooth surface, lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Place something that will slide under your feet. You can get slide discs for these types of exercise or simply use a paper place for the same effect if you don't want to buy the equipment. Drive your weight into your heels to lift your hips slightly off the ground. Keeping your hips off the floor, slowly slide your heels down to extend your legs. Now drop your hips to the ground so you can slide your legs back to the start and repeat.
To make this exercise more difficult you can keep your hips lifting for the full movement; so slide down to extend your legs and then bend them to slide back to the start with your hips off the floor for the whole time. You can also complete it as a single leg exercise.
If your hamstrings aren't quite strong enough to perform it as described above, keep your hips on the ground while sliding your heels down to extend your knees and back up to the start.
Recommended product: The Amonax Sliders from Amazon are fantastic. They have a loop attached to out your foot in to make the exercise more comfortable, and also have alternative exercises printed on the disc itself too!
Hopefully you find those 3 exercises useful. They are just three of many exercises that will help you improve the strength of your anterior cruciate ligament after injury. We'd love to know in the comments box below, how you suffered your ACL injury, what stage of recovery you are at and if you have any tips for anyone else recovering from a similar injury too.
Have you seen our progressive 52 week ACL rehabilitation programme? It works through the post-op stage, all the way to returning to sport; progressing exercises throughout to ensure you see gradual improvements in mobility, strength and most importantly - pain. Check it out below!