ACL Exercises for Pre-Surgery

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, controls the motion of the shin and thigh bones. ACL tears occur when the knee becomes unstable and buckles. ACL injuries are often the result of sports injuries and are frequently treated with surgery for patients who want to continue to lead an active lifestyle. Exercising before ACL surgery can help maintain muscle. You should always consult your doctor before beginning pre-surgery ACL exercises.

A woman is doing quad sets with ankle weights.
Credit: kicsiicsi/iStock/Getty Images


A heel dig bridge exercise will help strengthen your hamstrings and hip muscles. Lie on the floor or on an exercise mat with your back on the floor. Bend your knees. Your feet should be pointing toward the ceiling; only your heels should be on the floor. You should then dig your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks and elevate your hips from the floor. Your shoulders, hips and knees should all form a straight line. Try to hold this position for six seconds. Lower yourself back to the floor and repeat this exercise for one set of eight repetitions. Discontinue if pain is felt.


Heel raises are completed with the aid of a chair. This exercise will help to strengthen your calf muscles as you prepare for ACL surgery, according to Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. Stand up straight and hold onto the back of a chair placed in front of you. Stand a few inches back from your chair. Raise your heels off the ground. Keep your knees straight. Hold this position for six seconds. Lower your heels to the floor and repeat this exercise in one set of eight repetitions.

Quad Sets

Quad sets will help you maintain strength in your upper leg and in the top of your thigh. Sit on the floor and extend your injured leg out in front of you. Your healthy leg should also be out in front of you, in a 90-degree angle. Tighten your thigh muscle on the injured leg. To do this, press the back of your knee against the floor. If your knee is uncomfortable, roll a small towel underneath your knee. Hold this position for six seconds. Repeat this exercise for one set of eight repetitions.

Knee Bends

Completing shallow standing knee bends will help you to build strength in your upper leg. Only complete this exercise if you are experiencing minimal pain. Your knee should not click or lock while completing this exercise. Stand with your hands placed on a counter or on the back of a chair, with your feet should shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slowly in a squatting position. Think about the form you use to sit on a chair. Avoid moving your knees in front of your toes. Squat no more than half a foot. Your heels should remain on the floor or at least graze the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds. Repeat one set of eight repetitions.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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