Prevent ACL Injuries With This Strengthening Routine

Strengthening the Muscles that Support the Anterior Cruciate Ligament

The lunge exercise.
The lunge exercise. Erik Isakson/Getty Images

ACL injury, including sprains or tears, are one of the most common knee injuries athletes endure. While accidents are bound to happen, there are ways to help strengthen the supporting muscles of the knee, and help prevent injury or unnecessary strain on the knee. This strengthening program focuses on increasing strength in the leg muscles. This will lead to increased leg strength and a more stable knee joint.

Remember, technique is everything; pay close attention to your form during the performance of these exercises in order to avoid injury. Here are three exercises to strength leg muscles and prevent ACL injury:

Quadriceps Strengthening Exercises to Prevent ACL Injury

The quadriceps muscles are four separate muscles in the front of the thigh.

  • Walking Lunges (3 sets x 10 reps)
  • Elapsed Time: 6.5 - 7.5 min
  • Purpose: Strengthen the thigh (quadriceps) muscle.
  • Lunge forward leading with your right leg.
  • Push off with your right leg and lunge forward with your left leg.
  • Drop the back knee straight down.
  • Make sure that your keep your front knee over your ankle.
  • Control the motion and try to avoid your front knee from caving inward.
  • If you cannot see your toes on your leading leg, you are doing the exercise incorrectly.

Hamstring Exercises to Prevent ACL Injury

The hamstring muscles are five separate tendons in the back of the thigh.

  • Hamstrings (3 sets x 10 reps)
  • Elapsed Time: 7.5 - 8.5 min
  • Purpose: Strengthen hamstrings muscles.
  • Kneel on the ground with hands at your side.
  • Have a partner hold firmly at your ankles.
  • With a straight back, lean forward leading with your hips.
  • Your knee, hip and shoulder should be in a straight line as you lean toward the ground.
  • Do not bend at the waist.
  • You should feel the hamstrings in the back of your thigh working.
  • Repeat the exercise for 3 sets of 10, or a total of 30 reps.

Balance Exercises to Prevent ACL Injury

Studies show that lower hamstring strength vs. quadricep strength may play a part in ACL injury. Therefore increasing balance is shown to help create an equilibrium between the strength of the quadricep muscles vs. the hamstring muscles.

  • Single Toe Raises (30 reps x 2 reps)
  • Elapsed Time: 8.5 - 9.5 min
  • Purpose: This exercise strengthens the calf muscle and increases balance.
  • Stand up with your arms at your side.
  • Bend the left knee up and maintain your balance.
  • Slowly rise up on your right toes with good balance.
  • You may hold your arms out ahead of you in order to help.
  • Slowly repeat 30 times and switch to the other side.

As you get stronger, you may need to add additional repetitions to this exercise to continue the strengthening effect of the exercise. There are dynamic exercises that when coupled with these will also help strengthen supporting muscles and prevent ACL injury.

Next: Phase 4 Plyometrics

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PEP Program, Santa Monica Sports Medicine Research Foundation, accessed 4/3/2016.

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