Understanding your ACL anatomy is critical to injury prevention. The ACL is one of the strong bands of tissue that help connect your thigh bone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia). A lack of muscle strength around the joint to support twisting or sudden rotational movements makes the ACL the most commonly injured ligament in the knee. Therefore, it is crucial to build up muscle strength in order to prevent an ACL injury.
Here are a few ACL strengthening exercises:
Single Leg Balance: This exercise is a great warmup for your leg muscles and it strengthens knee stability. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent and attempt to maintain your balance for 15 to 30 seconds. Keep your hip, knee, and foot aligned with hip over knee over foot. Do 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions on each foot.
Wall Squats: These strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings and improve balance. Lean up against a wall with your back against it and your feet 12-24 inches away from the wall. Bend your knees and slide down the wall until your knees are directly over your ankles. If your knees are positioned over your toes, you have squatted too far. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds and push back up to standing. Do 1 set of 5-10 repetitions.
Walking Lunges: These exercises strengthen the quadriceps. Stand with your feet together and step forward with one leg, bending your knee to 90 degrees after your foot hits the ground. Make sure the front knee remains over the ankle and does not go past the foot. Continue moving your body forward by bringing your back (stationary) leg forward, then together with your step leg. Alternate legs with each step. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Single Leg Bridge: These strengthen your hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles. Lay on your back with one knee bent slightly and one leg straight. Using the bent leg as your support leg, elevate your trunk and hips, bringing your shoulders, hips, and leg in a straight line. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds.
Plyometric Exercises: These exercises involve a jumping or explosive movement. A jump squat is a type of plyometric exercise that will strengthen the ACL and is designed to improve athletic performance, speed, and power. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Lower your body to squatting position. Push up through your feet and jump up explosively while engaging your abdominal muscles. Lift your arms overhead as you jump. As you land, move back down to the squatting position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
When you plant your foot, change direction suddenly, or even change your speed of movement, the ACL keeps your knee stable, withstanding tremendous force. These few exercises, if performed faithfully and correctly, can strengthen the leg muscles, enhance knee stability, and decrease the chances of an ACL injury. Dr. DiGiulio is dedicated to helping patients prevent and repair ACL injuries.
Milan M. DiGiulio, M.D. offers comprehensive orthopedic care for you and your entire family, specializing in Sports Medicine and arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder and knee. Dr. DiGiulio is an advocate of non-invasive, non-surgical treatment options such as Physical Therapy and Orthobiologics.