Safe Workouts After ACL Tear
It is important to do prehab or pre surgery rehabilitation so you can set yourself up for a successful surgery. The problem is many insurance companies do not cover enough visits to allow patients to see a physical therapist before and after surgery, and honestly they usually don’t provide enough visits for a full return to sport after ACL surgery either.
Before doing any type of workouts make sure you speak with your surgeon and/or physical therapist regarding your specific limitations as every injury is different and every person’s strength levels are different. These are merely recommendations of safe exercises to work on while having a nonfunctional ACL but they are not a medical prescription. If you have any pain, do not perform these exercises and consult your doctor. If you have further ligament damage than just ACL, it might be best not attempt exercising and focus on your swelling and pain management.
Heading into ACL surgery it is important to keep your swelling down. Surgeons cannot operate on a swollen knee so make sure you give yourself the rest and recovery needed. Swelling will contribute to loss of range of motion and it is not a good idea to operate on a knee that doesn’t have full range of motion.
If you are in a lot of pain or have continued swelling then it would be a good idea to reference the exercises listed in my blog on The 2 Best Post Op ACL Exercises, as they can help you before surgery too. It would be good to practice these because they will be much harder to perform after surgery.
If you aren’t in pain and you do not have any swelling it is okay to try some simple workouts. Make sure that you avoid jumping, running, or lateral movements as those will be too difficult and risky to do without your functional ACL.
Excess squatting and step ups could also be too difficult or feel very unstable for you so I recommend focusing on moves like lightweight deadlifts, stability ball hamstring curls, stability ball glute bridges, single leg balance moves, closed chain exercises on cable machines, stability ball crunches, and modified planks and side planks.
Upper body work should be fine to do with no limitations but make sure you are limiting your lower body moves and focusing on safe exercises that will not leave your knee in a vulnerable position. Practicing upper body with body weight training like doing pull ups, pushups, and triceps dips is a great idea to prepare yourself for using your crutches. Just keep that knee safe and neutral during all of those moves. Cardio is also good to continue working on but choose options that are low impact. Cycling would be the best option for endurance based cardio exercises but do not do too much. If you are looking for something more intense like Interval Training, I recommend finding a chair or stability ball to sit on while you do battle rope slams, waves, and other variations. Make sure that you are not adding force to your knee while you perform.
Again, remember you have an injury and need to be careful with all of these moves. Do them slowly. If you are having sore day, listen to your body and just rest. Focus on going slow during each phase of the movement which will safely increase the challenge as well as take excess forces off your knee.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
Stability Ball Glute Bridges
Single Leg Balance – Progress only if able to do so
Closed Chain Exercises on Cable Machine
Hip Abduction – moving your leg away from your body using primarily glute medius.
Hip Extension – moving your leg behind your body using your glutes and hamstrings.
Forward – Squeeze the quads with the knee straight and maintain squeeze through the movement.
Stability Ball Crunches
Modified Planks and Plank
Modified Side Plank and Side Plank and Side Plank with Abduction