Safe and Effective Knee Strengthening Exercises After ACL Surgery

I wanted to show you a few safe and effective knee strengthening exercises that you can do after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery.

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#1 – Growing Stretch

Begin in an upright standing position. Place your weight on one leg, then bring your knee up, bring it out to the side and put it back down to the start position.

Growing Stretch

If you’re not able to stand when you do this exercise, you can put your one hand against the wall to eliminate balance, and then you can go through the movement.

Growing Stretch on the Wall

Start off with one set of 5 reps. Perform this exercise in a smooth, controlled movement with a quick stop at the end position. The intensity is light. This exercise is like a dynamic stretch.

The purpose of this exercise is to loosen up the tight hips. Secondarily, when we bring the knee up and out to the side, we’re working on flexion extension of the knee. Then, on the ACL surgery knee, when you place your weight on it, you activate the muscles around the knee and hip.

If you’re not able to stand because it’s too advanced for you or your ACL surgery is not quite a long ago, and you don’t have the strength yet, you can do the exercise on the floor. Lie on your back to the ground. Offload your body. Bring one knee up, then out to the side and put it back to the start position.

Growing Stretch on the Floor


#2 – A Partner Hamstring Hold

Lie with your face down on the ground. Bend one knee up, and then activate your hamstrings. Your partner provides resistance as you contract your hamstring muscles. Do the exercise in 45-degree and 90-degree angles.

If you don’t have someone that you could go through with this exercise, you can use a resistive band, or you could lie on your side then contract your hamstring muscles by pushing your heel against the wall. You can utilize the wall to go through with the exercise, and you could change the angle within the knee to activate and work on the hamstrings.

A Partner Hamstring Hold

Start off with one set of 5 reps and try to mix up with different angles. Don’t be deviate with the angle that you are strong at but work on all the angles especially the angles where you are weak. Contract the hamstring at around 50 percent to 75 percent for about 2 seconds, then you can progress to 5 seconds.

The purpose of this exercise is to work on the activation, endurance and strength of the hamstring. The hamstring plays a big role in the recovery of an ACL surgery. They assist in the stability of the knee and compensate for the ACL surgery.


#3 – Hip Abductor

Begin in an upright standing position and put your one hand against the wall. Lift one leg out to the side for about 30 to 45 degrees, and then bring it back down to the start position.

With this exercise, we lift one leg out to the side for about 30 to 45 degrees because we don’t want too much movement to happen on the pelvis. We want to focus on the outer part of the hip.

Hip Abductor

Start off with one set of 5 reps. Perform this exercise in a smooth, controlled movement with a good contraction of the outer hip at the end position. The intensity is light. This exercise works on the activation, endurance and strength of the outer part of the hip.

The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen out the hip and the muscles around the knees. It serves two purposes. First, when you lift the leg out to the side with the post-surgery knee, it works on the outer hip as strong hips is helpful for knee recovery, Second, when you lift the other leg up in the back, it strengthens the muscles around the knees and hips. No matter what the leg is doing, the knee gets benefits.


#4 – Static Lunge

Begin in an upright standing position. Take a big step forward with one leg, hold on to that position, and then bring the back knee down to the ground. Maintain a 90-degree angle with the front and back leg.

The front leg works on the muscles around the knee and the back leg works on the glutes and hamstring.

Static Lunge

Start off with one set of 5 reps on each side. Perform this exercise in a smooth, controlled movement with a good contraction of the muscles around the knee, glutes and hamstrings at the top position. The intensity can be light to moderate depending on how strong you are in the post ACL surgery knee. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen out the muscles around the knee and hips.

There are other options that you can do for this exercise. Sometimes, people find stepping on the back lunge is easier than stepping into the front lunge. If it’s too difficult for you to go into a front lunge, you can do the back lunge if it tends to be easier.

Another thing is if the balance or stability bothers you, you can move near the wall. Move into a back lunge, and then put one hand against the wall to eliminate balance. Focus on having good movement and contract the correct muscles in doing the exercise.

Static Lunge on the Wall


#5 – Single Leg Half-squat

Begin in an upright standing position. Put one hand against the wall or something stable to help with balance so that you can focus on doing the exercise correctly and target the right muscles. Stand on one leg, and then bend in the hip and bend in the knee. Go back to the start position and repeat the movement.

When you go back to the start position, it contracts the muscles around the knee and hips. Make the pelvis square when doing the movement.

Single Leg Half-squat

Start off with one set of 5 reps. Perform this exercise in a smooth, controlled movement with a good contraction of the muscles around the knees and hips, specifically the glutes and hamstringS at the top position. The intensity can be light to moderate, depending on how strong you are in the hips and in the knees.

The purpose of this exercise is to get you into a squat movement and retrain the knee to work properly and activate the muscles around the knee and hips.

Give these five exercises a go. These are safe and effective knee strengthening exercises that you can do after ACL surgery.

If you are looking for a fast, simple, safe and effective program to eliminate your stubborn knee pain and patellofemoral syndrome, then check out the Patellofemoral Syndrome Solution program.

Take care!

Rick Kaselj, MS