Our recommended exercise list for ACL rehabilitation

ACL Rehab Exercises List

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are a common injury, with as many as 200,000 occurring every year in the U.S. (UpToDate, 2018). These knee injuries often occur during sports. For instance, a sudden stop or change in direction while running can injure your ACL. In many cases, serious ACL injuries need surgery to repair the ligament if it has been torn. 

Physical therapy can be very effective after ACL surgery. One study shows that 100% of ACL patients in the group treated with physical therapy were able to regain normal knee extension. It also reports that 97% of the patients in this group achieved normal knee bending. Therapeutic exercises are the most common technique therapists use for ACL rehab. Here are a list of exercises therapists typically recommend in four of the ACL rehabilitation phases: 

Phase 1

The first phase of your ACL rehabilitation will begin immediately after surgery. Typically, it lasts for about two to four weeks, depending on your progress. The exercise list recommended for this phase of your ACL rehab could include: 

  • Quadricep sets
  • Prone hangs
  • Heel slides (seated or prone)
  • Straight leg raises
  • Hamstring sets
  • Cycling
  • Isometric ab exercises
  • Range-of-motion exercises
  • Gait training

Phase 2

The next phase of your ACL rehabilitation usually begins between two and six weeks after surgery. In most cases, phase 2 of your rehab will cover a period of three to five weeks. Its goals will be to improve knee range of motion and continue to build core and leg strength. A few of the exercises you might be asked to do in phase 2 of rehab are:

  • Squats
  • Partial lunges
  • Step ups
  • Bridges
  • Balance activities
  • Hamstring curls
  • Biking

Phase 3

Your therapist will likely have you start using a phase 3 ACL rehabilitation exercises list six to eight weeks post-surgery. One goal of this rehab phase will be to improve your ability to do dynamic movements. It can also aim to build your coordination and endurance. Exercises that might be included in phase 3 include: 

  • Squats
  • Three-way lunges
  • Step downs
  • Progressive single leg loading

Phase 4

In 12 to 16 weeks after surgery, most people will be ready to start phase 4 of their ACL rehab. The main goal of this phase is to ensure your knee is functioning normally. Another goal set during this phase could be to ensure you’re ready to return to playing sports. Your phase 4 ACL rehabilitation exercises list could include options like: 

  • Cutting and pivoting drills
  • Return to sport programs
  • Progressive strengthening 

Find help with your ACL rehabilitation at Armor Physical Therapy

Are you looking for a rehabilitation team that doesn’t just rely on ACL exercise lists? Our Armor Physical Therapy team is just what you’re looking for. We offer free screenings to jump-start your post-surgical rehab. Our team also excels at building personalized therapy plans that use multiple evidence-based techniques. 

Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment. 

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