Tearing your ACL is a devastating injury. It is one of the longest recovery times of any orthopedic injury, and it is never a straight line to recovery. However, if you work with the right medical professionals, they can get you back to a full recovery!
Especially for our high-level athletes, their main concern is getting back to their sport as quickly as possible. That is why ACL tears are one of the hardest injuries to cope with mentally. Focusing instead on rest and healing will be one of the best ways to get back into the gym. If you are recovering from an ACL repair surgery and have been told you can start working out again, it is important to follow a few important steps before jumping into things in full swing!
Unless your doctor has specifically given you the clear to exercise in the gym, it is important to continue with your medically advised physical therapy only. You may be feeling better and have less pain, but your muscles are not ready for any kind of intense exercise, which can lead to serious injury. Retearing your ACL soon after surgery can lead to major surgery, something you will definitely want to avoid.
It has probably been a while since you exercised without someone telling you what to do. Think about what you would like to work out before entering the gym to calm any nerves you may have! It is helpful to have a list of workouts you plan to do and will help you feel accomplished at the end of your workout
Start by doing the exercises you have been cleared to do so far. It may be different for everyone based on age and other health-related factors. If you have been told weights are okay, incorporate them slowly into your routine.
The best cardio after an ACL reconstruction surgery will be one that puts low pressure on the knee joint. Many of our doctors recommend exercises like cycling, swimming, the elliptical, or taking up an aerobics class at your gym. If you are a runner, make sure to ask for a running plan from your physical therapist. They will give you the best distance to accomplish per week to get you back to where you were pre-surgery!
Resistance training is a great, safe way to build muscle after ACL surgery. Many physical therapists use them with patients during their recovery, so it only makes sense to continue with this exercise when it is time to work out on your own.
If you have been cleared to add heavier weights to your workout routine, start slow and build from there. Many of our weightlifting patients will use a plan given by their physical therapist to help guide them back into lifting. Make sure to encourage different muscle groups on different days to not strain the body and further damage the joints.
In summary, find a workout that is both enjoyable and safe for your knee. Your physical therapist will know what is best for you, and will be the most helpful resource in getting you back into the gym after an ACL reconstruction surgery!