Getting an injury to an anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”) in either one of your knees can be devastating to your athletic training program. With even a small tear to your ACL, you might find yourself unable to train or compete for months. Your knees are a particularly vulnerable part of the body that’s susceptible to injury because they need to handle extreme forces during training and competition. Thankfully, there are a number of different techniques you can use to strengthen the areas around your ACL and reduce the likelihood of injury. Because the ACL is a ligament, which can’t itself be strengthened, our focus is on the muscles that surround and stabilize the knee joint.
- First, you should strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. These help to keep your knee joint stable when it experiences a sudden force that could potentially be damaging, such as landing on the ground after a jump, or trying to make a quick change in direction. When your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles can help absorb and translate these forces, your ACL won’t have to. Female athletes are statistically much more likely to experience ACL injuries, so it’s especially important that they make sure to include these types of strengthening exercises in their workout routines.
- You should also be working to improve your overall fitness and conditioning, and avoid focusing exclusively on the movements and techniques of your sport. Safe training exercises that focus on explosive power – such as plyometrics (aka) jump training – can help teach your body how to instinctively react to sideways and other torquing forces without allowing those potentially damaging forces to translate to your ACL.
- As part of the “jumping” training like plyometrics, you should practice drills such as jumping off a short box and landing with your knees bent. You should also get into the habit of being crouched down whenever you pivot or turn. These drills help get your body accustomed to being in positions that are safer, and to instinctively keeping good position throughout all movements.
ACL Exercises Is A Must – But Proper Equipment Will Also Help
Besides these ACL exercises, another way to help keep your ACLs safe is to make sure that the equipment and gear you use in training and in competition isn’t putting you at greater risk. It’s important to avoid situations where your foot is in an awkward or fixed position, such as what happens when you wear long cleats in a sport where you can expect hard physical contact, like football. If your lower leg is unable to move while you’re hit, then it’s more likely that your knee (and your ACL) is going to have to deal with the force of the hit. Wear the shortest cleats that still allow you to perform. Along these same lines, make sure your footwear does not have a heel that’s unnecessarily elevated – doing so puts your leg in an unnatural position that makes it more difficult to handle sideways and twisting forces. It’s next to impossible to eliminate all risks of an ACL injury, but if you do the ACL exercises above above you’ll make it less likely that you’ll ever have to deal with one.