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ACL Surgery - 6-12 Weeks

The main focus of this phase is to really push the strength of your leg and build your confidence in using it.

I’ve got some exercises already, should I just keep doing them? 

In short, you can if you want to, however, in order to develop and build strength you need variety in your exercise programme.

If you want to stick with the programme you are doing, you really should be looking at adding weight into the exercises. This means holding dumbbells or heavy bags whilst doing the exercises to make them harder. You may have to improvise using heavy household items or things from the shed if you don’t have any weights.

To help you stay on track, it is useful to know that a 3-month period of quadriceps strengthening programme can lead to better running mechanics 6 months after your op (Kline et el. 2016). In other words, if you put the effort into your rehabilitation in the early stages (and all the way through to the end), you are likely to get a better result.

How much weight should I be using?

This is different from person to person. A useful way to work out roughly how much weight you should use is what we call ‘reps in reserve’.

Imagine you are going to aim for 12 repetitions (reps) of an exercise. You should be able to lift whatever weight you can until you get to 12 but it should be hard work and if asked, you should only be able to do another two repetitions more before your legs have had enough. In other words, when you reach your target amount of repetitions (e.g. 12), you should only have two ‘reps in reserve’ before you’ve had enough.

Also, make sure you train your other leg. Strengthening of the non-operated leg during your ACL rehabilitation can improve quadriceps strength on the operated leg by ~30% at 6 months post-op (Harput et al. 2019).

Is there anything else that would help me?

Yes, there is and here are just a couple of the most important things.

Can I do some other exercise to help my fitness and my knee?

Again, the answer is yes. You can start to increase the resistance on your exercise bike or start using a treadmill. If you enjoy swimming, you can start this but try to stay with straight leg strokes like front or back crawl.

Exercise tip:

You should aim to complete the exercises (as many or as few as you want to) about 3 to 4 times a week.

Each exercise should be completed between 8-12 times (or repetitions) for 3 to 4 sets. Make sure you have about 1 minute's rest in between each set.

 In order to change your muscles, you need to challenge them. In other words, you should really feel the effort with each set of exercises and should really not be able to do more than 12 each time around.

Download our blank gym programme here.

Harput, G., Ulusoy B., Yildiz I., Demirici, S., Erasian, L., Turhan, E. & Tunay, V.B. (2019). Cross-education improves quadriceps strength recovery after ACL reconstruction: a randomised controlled trial. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy. 27(1), 68-75.

Kline P.W., Johnson, D.L., Ireland, M.L. & Noehren, B. (2016). Clinical predictors of knee mechanics at return to sport following ACL reconstruction.  Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 48(5) 790.

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