Once you have received the go ahead from your doctor or physical therapist to resume exercise, begin slowly. Gradually increase the intensity, but do not push the injured leg to the point that you feel pain. Especially if you are accustomed to intense workouts, leg injury exercises may seem too easy at first. But in order to allow your body to fully heal, you will need to care for injuries with caution.
Often starting in the pool is a good choice. Water provides the support as well as the resistance needed to regain stability. If you have access to a indoor, or outdoor pool, begin by holding on to the side and practice gentle lifts and kicks to strengthen and rebuild the muscles in your injured leg.
- Stand on one leg
- Lift and lower the opposite leg
- Draw circles with your toes in the water at knee level and then again at hip level, if possible
- Walk laps around the pool
Quad sets build the strength in the muscles on top of your thigh, or quadriceps. Start by sitting on the floor with a rolled up towel under your knee for support.
- Tighten the muscles on top of your thigh
- Concentrate on pressing the towel under your knee into the floor
- Hold for 10 seconds
- Repeat 8 - 10 times and then again during the day
Heel slides stretch the quadricep muscles to start building the range of motion in your leg. Begin by lying on the floor, or on your bed with your leg flat.
- Slowly slide your heel toward your buttocks
- Keep your heel in contact with the floor or bed
- Bend the knee until you feel the stretch, but not until it is painful
- Hold for 10 seconds
- Slowly slide the heel back down
- Do 4 - 6 repetitions several times throughout the day
Straight-leg raises are used to strengthen the muscles surrounding your hips and thighs. Start by lying on your back with the uninjured leg bent and the foot resting flat on the floor. Keep a natural curve to your lower back, if it is painful, place a towel under you to support your back.
- Tighten the thigh muscles in the injured, straight leg
- Holding this taut, lift the leg up about 12 inches from the floor
- Stay in place for 10 seconds
- Slowly lower to the floor
- Repeat 8 -10 times
Heel Dig Bridging
Work your hamstrings and hip muscles with heel dig bridging. Consistently working the hamstrings will provide better stability for your leg when you are able to resume regular exercise. Weak hamstrings can lead to future injuries through overcompensation. Lie on your back with both knees bent.
- Dig your heels into the floor
- Pushing from the heels, squeeze your buttocks
- Lift your hips off the floor, keeping your shoulders, hips, and knees in a straight line
- Hold for a count of 5
- Slowly lower to the floor and then repeat
Prone Hamstring Curls
An exercise to help regain strength in the hamstrings is the prone hamstring curl. Working the muscles in the back of your legs should be done with care, use proper form and be aware of your pain level. Start on your stomach with your legs straight. Use rolled up towels or washcloths to support any weak area such as the kneecap.
- Bend the knee of one leg bringing the foot towards your buttocks (stop if this motion is painful, only bend as far as your injury will allow)
- Lower your foot slowly back to the floor
- Add ankle weights as you regain strength and range of motion (try short lifts with a weight of a few inches)
Exercise bikes are another safe option for leg injury exercises. The ability to set the resistance in addition to the smooth cycling motion gives the leg time to heal before transitioning to your regular workout regimen while providing important cardiovascular training.
Westwood Physical Therapy: https://www.westwoodpt.com/services/sports-medicine/acl-rehab-program/