Training After A Knee Injury
Getting back into the gym after a significant knee injury can be a scary thought and prevent us from doing just that. But, there are many ways we can still lift and train properly while avoiding injury as long as the right steps are taken. Two of the most common knee injuries are the tearing of the ACL and/or meniscus, which can wreak havoc in our lives without proper recovery.
First, it is important to fully understand what type of injury and repair you have received. There are many options to replace an ACL – sometimes from our own body and sometimes not. This in itself can largely determine what strengths and weaknesses you will have. Without proper knowledge of your own body it will be more difficult to properly train. The importance of warming up and stretching greatly increases after any injury. Getting more blood flow to the area of concern will greatly decrease the risk of injury. You will significantly lose muscle strength around that given knee during recovery. Therefore, it is vital to incorporate unilateral leg work into your training. This will show the disparity in strength from the good and bad leg and help you identify where improvement is needed most.
Quadricep strength will take the largest hit as you will be physically restricted during early recovery. Working to increase its strength will be one of the biggest keys to getting back to where you were and increasing knee stabilization. Great exercises that can help with this are Poliquin step ups (see below), split squats, modified squat variations and leg presses. It is important for us to determine the difference between pain and discomfort during training. If any pain occurs while training, it is important to immediately stop whichever exercise you are doing and talk to a training professional about what to do as a replacement. But, training after an injury can create discomfort and become frustrating. Working back to where you were once before is a long process and will be challenging, but can be done if the goal and focus stays the same throughout.
There are exercises to avoid. One of the first ones to avoid is the leg extension machine. Leg extensions are very hard on the ACL and cause a “shearing” effect on the ligament. With a new ACL in place, the replacement graft is still very raw and takes a long time to heal. This can often lead to knee pain and can become exacerbated by using this machine. Full range squats should also be avoided as they put too great of force on the ACL in the beginning of the rehabilitation process. You also need to make sure your body gets proper rest and recovery. It is easy to overdo it after an injury, especially if we feel good. Knowing when to take rests between the days of training will go a long way in keeping the longevity of your knees. Feel free to ask any of our trainers any questions if you have gone through a knee injury and are unsure of what steps to take!