Torn ACLs and knee injuries are surprisingly common, and a prime example of how muscular imbalances create wear on the joints. Proper awareness, balance, and strength training are key to preventing and rehabbing any and all injuries… knees included.
For a knee injury, it is important to build the entire leg: maintain quad strength, build stronger hamstrings, and focus on balanced strength in the hips. Pay attention to proper traction and alignment of the ankle, knee and hip as you exercise – in other words, make sure everything is lining up. You can easily do a movement, but without proper alignment of the joints, muscular imbalances can be created, resulting in continued strain. The best way to build overall strength and better alignment is to incorporate some form of balance into your exercises. Balancing coerces lesser developed muscles to engage, as well as to kick in a little core support.
Your doctor or PT will probably gave you some similar movements, like squats, leg presses, and lunges, but my recommendation would be to try to incorporate an element of balance with each:
Wall Squats with a balance ball behind the back – Angle out the legs and work your way to bringing them under your hips. Pay attention that the knee lines up with the center of your foot. Don’t let the knees extend into flexion past the toes, or a 90 degree angle. Hold the squat for 30 seconds.
Single leg wall squats – This is a challenge. Be careful with these.
Standing on one foot Hip hikes – Using a yoga block, encourage balance work on the standing leg. allow the opposing leg to tap the floor and lift up. Works the hips and standing leg stability.
Balance on one foot – Balance on an upside down bosu ball, foam roller, or a wobble board at the gym
Practice balance on this for 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time.
Swimming over balance ball – Lying over the ball. Core is centered. Opposing hand and leg lift, other two remain in contact with the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds each. Keep both arm and leg completely straight, hold and balance. Switch.
Hamstring curl, pelvic lift series on balance ball or bosu ball – Lying on the floor. Soles of the feet flat on the ball (don’t hang in just heels), curl hips up towards the ceiling and roll back down through the spine. Keep ball stable. Can do with legs together (harder) or shoulder width apart. Curl up and down 10 – 20 times.
1. Next progression: you can keep hips elevated and carefully push the ball out and in. Don’t move hips as you move legs. Be careful with this one.
2. Next progression: you can do single leg pelvis lifts, with opposing leg stretched upward towards the ceiling – again, be careful with this one.
Leg presses on the gym equip. Don’t just power through. Keep body aligned and lengthen spine and low back away from the leg movement.
Foam Roller IT band massage If you have a foam roller at the gym, you might want to roll out the outside of the leg. Actually, investing in a roller for home is a wise purchase. There are a multitude of uses and benefits. Rolling out the IT band can be painful, depending on how tense is. The roller helps release hip and leg tension, while reducing strain on the knee.