Exercises to Support the MCL and ACL of the Knee
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior collateral ligament (ACL) are located in the knee joint. Both the MCL and ACL help connect the thigh and shin bones. Injuries to them are fairly common among adults, but strength training can do wonders for any knee ligament. Target muscles include the quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves.
The leg press strengthens the quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings. Sit on the leg-press machine with your hips against the spot where the seat and back pad meet, your head and neck both straight and your entire spine pressed up against the back pad. Allow your arms to hang at your sides. Place your feet flat on the forward platform. Begin by pressing your heels through the platform, moving he resistance in a continuous motion until your legs are just about straight. Gradually bring the platform back toward you until your legs are at a right angle. Make sure not to lift your hips in any part of the movement.
Bridges are a stabilization exercise that works the hamstrings and gluteals. Strengthening these surrounding muscles supports the knee joint. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Initiate the motion by elevating your hips and tightening your glutes while also engaging your abdominal wall. Once you have lifted your hips as much as possible, maintain a contraction through your gluteals and abdominals in a three-second hold. Slowly lower your hips down until they just about reach the floor. Avoid over arching your lower back on the upward phase.
Supine Single-Leg Hip Flexion
Single-leg hip flexion isolates the hip flexors, another support muscle to the knee. Lie on your back with your right knee bent and right foot flat. Your left leg should be straight and resting on the floor. Lift your left leg in a controlled fashion until your left thigh is even with the right thigh. Gradually bring your left leg back down until your left heel hits the floor. Once you have fully fatigued the left leg, switch positions.
Wall slides are a type of squatting motion that integrates the quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings. Place a slide board in a vertical position on a flat wall; it provides a slick surface to easily maneuver upon. Stand up with your entire back and buttocks on the slide board, with your feet flat on the floor and just in front of your body. Your knees are bent in a right angle. Slowly slide your butt up the slide board until your knees are fully extended, then slowly lower back toward the floor. Once your thighs are parallel with the floor, hold for two to three seconds. Keep a constant abdominal contraction, which keeps your lower back against the slide board.
- Treat Your Own Knees: Simple Exercises to Build Strength, Flexibility, Responsiveness and Endurance; Jim Johnson
- Healthy Knees Book; Nancy Schatz Alton
Based in New York, John Tavolacci has been a leading exercise physiologist for over 14 years. His resume includes stints in cardiac rehab, sports conditioning, physical therapy and corporate wellness. He is a certified health/fitness instructor and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Tavolacci also holds a master's degree in exercise physiology from Queens College.