5 Simple Exercises You Can Do To Prevent ACL Injuries
ACL tears take months to heal and recover from. In addition there is lots of expensive surgery and pain involved to get the ligament back to working condition. Do these exercises to help strengthen the knee joint and prevent a painful ACL tear.
You've seen it happen on TV before. A famous athlete goes to run a play when suddenly *pop* and they're down. That was the anterior cruciate ligament pulling itself apart due to the extreme stresses that some of these athletes are subjected to. Sometimes ACL injuries even seem to happen randomly. Land awkwardly after a jump? That could injure your ACL. Get tackled at a weird angle? That could do it, too. ACL injuries and tears seem to be waiting around every corner.
The ACL tear is an injury all too common in active people. Over 400,000 ACLs are repaired each year. In addition, Women are about 8 times more likely to have an ACL injury than men! With all these people being injured you might be thinking to yourself, "What can I do to help prevent an ACL tear?"
That's a good question, and the only true prophylactic treatments are exercise or an orthopedic bracing solution - like a custom CTi knee brace. A custom fit knee brace can help prevent an ACL tear by physically preventing the knee from moving in awkward ways that could injure it. Knee braces are great for post-surgery stabilization and re-injury prevention as well.
In addition to a knee brace, we have compiled a list of exercises below. These should help strengthen your quads, calfs, hamstrings, and glutes, helping you build strength in the leg and making it harder to injure your ACL. Keep in mind these are very simple exercises, designed mostly to help with stability. If you are looking for something to build muscle in the legs, you may need to increase the weight and put a separate routine together.
(3 sets of 10 reps)
Squats are the perfect exercise for the legs. They do a great job strengthening the quads and glutes, which will help stabilize the leg overall and prevent ACL injuries.
Start with your legs shoulder width apart. Hold your hands together in two fists and bring them out in front of your face. Slowly lower yourself down, keeping your back straight and the weight of your body centered over your heels. Touch your elbows to your knees and then slowly bring yourself back up. Repeat 10 times for a total of 3 sets.
This exercise should not be putting stress on the knees - if you're feeling any stress then start slow and only bend down half as much as you would for a full squat. Once your body adjusts to the work you can start going down further and further.
(3 sets of 10 reps)
Jump squats are very similar to reqular squats, but they provide a higher intensity workout to the legs. This will in time stabilize the knees and make ACL tears and injuries less likely.
To do a jump squat, start out in the same position as you would for a regular squat. Lower yourself slowly, but this time after your elbows touch your knees, spring upwards into the air with as much force as you can. Take care when landing, especially if you have already injured your ACL. You don't want to land flat, but rather bring it into your next squat. Repeat 10 times for a total of 3 sets.
(3 sets 10 reps)
Lateral bounds help build stability in the sides of the leg - the lateral movement is unique to this exercise and helps build sideways strength so that you don't tear your ACL while pivoting or quickly changing directions.
The lateral bound is easy to do - start in position 1, then jump (position 2) into position 3. When you land in position 3, you want to stay on your left foot. When you come back to position 1, you want to stay on your right foot. Don't put both of your feet down, that undermines the purpose of the exercise! The goal is to jump back and forth, sideways, alternating from your left foot to your right and back again. One rep is one jump.
(3 sets 10 reps)
Step ups focus on the calfs, quads, and glutes. They're simple to do, but you will need something to 'step up' onto. Stairs work great, but for more intensity something like a chair will do. You can stack boxes, pieces of wood, rocks; anything that is stable and can be stacked to about 1 or 2 feet high.
The step up is very basic. You simply want to step up onto the object in front of you. Don't forget to alternate legs as you go. This can be done with or without weights. If you plan on doing this with weights and have recently injured or had a repair to your ACL, please start with a small amount of weight. Remember, the goal here is to build stability, not kill your muscles with tons of weight!
(3 sets of 20 second holds)
Leg extensions help build up the quads for knee stability. You will need a chair or other object that allows you sit and extend the leg. For this exercise, you want to concentrate on flexing the quads while holding the leg out. You should hold this position for about 20 seconds before switching to the other side. Do 3 sets of 20 seconds on each side for maximum benefit. If you have ankle weights, you can put them on your ankles for added resistance.