Exercises: Leg, Knee, Ankle & Foot

 

ACL Rehabilitation: Free Squat

Once you can bear weight on your leg without pain, start adding advanced exercises to your workout. Using gym equipment can be a good way to improve overall knee function. Before you begin, talk with a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer. Learn how to use the equipment the right way. Start slowly, and rest between each set. As you feel stronger, increase the number of sets.

  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, feet flat, and toes pointed out.

  • Keeping your back straight and heels on the floor, bend down from your knees. Don't bend past 90 degrees, or so far that it causes pain.

  • Hold for 1 second(s). Then slowly rise back up.

  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

CAUTION: Ask your healthcare provider if you're ready to do this exercise. If you do too much too soon, you could create new knee problems, or even reinjure your knee.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Hamstring Pull

After you regain muscle control, it's time to build strength. This helps you put full weight on your leg. For best results, warm up and stretch before starting. If your injury is recent, wait until swelling and pain decrease before doing this exercise.

  • Tie the ends of a piece of elastic tubing into a large, strong knot. Place the knot behind a door and close the door securely.

  • Sit in a chair and slip the other end of the tubing around the heel of your injured leg.

  • Slowly pull your heel toward you. Hold for 10 seconds. Then return to your starting place without releasing all of the tension.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Hamstring Stretch

Begin your rehabilitation with exercises that develop muscle control. These help you meet basic goals, like driving a car or going back to work. Exercise as often as you're advised. But stop right away if any exercise causes sharp or increasing pain. Icing your knee for 15-20 minutes after exercise can help prevent swelling and soreness.

  • Lie on your back with your good knee bent. Put a towel around the back of your injured leg. Tighten your stomach muscles.

  • Keeping the knee as straight as you can, slowly pull on the towel to bring your injured leg up. Raise it as far as you comfortably can.

  • Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

CAUTION: If you feel tingling or pain in your back or legs, you're not yet ready for this exercise.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Heel Raise

After you regain muscle control, it's time to build strength. This helps you put full weight on your leg. For best results, warm up and stretch before starting. If your injury is recent, wait until swelling and pain decrease before doing this exercise.

  • Stand with your back straight. Use one or both hands to hold on to a sturdy chair, railing, counter, or table.

  • Rise up on your toes, then lower your heels to the floor.

  • Repeat at least 10 times.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Leg Press

Once you can bear weight on your leg without pain, start adding advanced exercises to your workout. Using gym equipment can be a good way to improve overall knee function. Before you begin, talk with a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer. Learn how to use the equipment the right way. Start slowly, and rest between each set. As you feel stronger, increase the number of sets.

CAUTION: Ask your healthcare provider if you're ready to do this exercise. If you do too much too soon, you could create new knee problems, or even reinjure your knee.

  • Sit with your head and back lined up. Set the machine to the lightest weight. Put your foot on the plate with your knee slightly bent.

  • Push until your leg is almost completely straight. Then slowly and steadily return your leg to its original position.

  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

  • As your knee gets stronger, begin this exercise with your knee bent at 90 degrees.

Note: Ask your healthcare provider if you should use one or both legs for this exercise.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Strait Leg Raises

Begin your rehabilitation with exercises that develop muscle control. These help you meet basic goals, like driving a car or going back to work. Exercise as often as you're advised. But stop right away if any exercise causes sharp or increasing pain. Icing your knee for 15-20 minutes after exercise can help prevent swelling and soreness.

  • Sit or lie on the floor with your injured leg straight and the other leg bent. Point the toes on your injured leg straight up.

  • Raise your injured leg a few inches off the floor.

  • Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.

Note: Do this exercise with toes turned out to strengthen inner thigh muscles.

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Foot & Ankle Exercises: Bent-Knee Calf Stretch

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles. Before beginning the exercise, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and don't bounce. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, inform your healthcare provider.

  • Stand an arm's length away from a wall. Place the palms of your hands on the wall. Step forward about 12 inches with your ______ foot.

  • Keeping toes pointed forward and both heels on the floor, bend both knees and lean forward. Hold for ______seconds. Relax.

  • Repeat ______ times. Do ______ sets a day.

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Foot & Ankle Exercises: Single-Leg Heel Raise

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles. Before beginning the exercise, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and don't bounce. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, inform your healthcare provider.

  • Stand, using a sturdy counter for balance only. Lift your left foot and stand with your weight on the other foot.

  • Rise up on your toes, then lower back onto your heel.

  • Repeat 10 times. Do 3 sets a day.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Hamstring Curls

The following exercise helps build strong, balanced leg muscles. Make sure to adjust exercise machines as instructed by your physical therapist. He or she will tell you how many times to do the exercise.

Note: To prevent injury, always warm up and stretch before your strengthening exercises. Stop any exercise that causes pain. Discuss it with your physical therapist or doctor.

  • Lying on your stomach, pull one leg up as far as you comfortably can.

  • Let your leg uncurl slowly and steadily.

  • Take care not to arch your back.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Heel Raise

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your knee. Before beginning, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and use smooth movements. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, inform your healthcare provider.

CAUTION

  • Don't lock your knees.

  • Don't arch your back.

  • Stand with both feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

  • If you need support, steady yourself with your hand on a ledge, wall, or table.

  • Raise both heels so you're standing on your toes.

  • Hold for ______ seconds. Slowly lower your heels to the floor.

  • Repeat ______ times. Do ______ sets a day.

Note: As you become stronger, stand on one foot at a time, and raise that heel off the floor.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Leg Press

The following exercise helps build strong, balanced leg muscles. Make sure to adjust exercise machines as instructed by your physical therapist. He or she will tell you how many times to do the exercise.

Note: To prevent injury, always warm up and stretch before your strengthening exercises. Stop any exercise that causes pain. Discuss it with your physical therapist or doctor.

  • Start with your leg bent so your knee is at a 90-degree angle.

  • Push with your leg until it is almost completely straight.

  • Slowly and steadily return your leg to its original position.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Leg Raise

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your knee. Before beginning, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and use smooth movements. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, call your healthcare provider.

  • Sit on the floor with your _________ leg straight, the other bent.

  • Tighten the thigh muscles on the top of your straight leg. You should feel the muscles contract. Raise that leg 6-8 inches. Then lower it slowly and steadily to the floor. Relax.

  • Repeat ______ times.  Do ______ sets a day.

CAUTION

  • Don't arch your back.

  • Don't hunch your shoulders.

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Leg Muscle Stretches: Hamstrings (Seated)

The following flexibility exercise may be suggested by your therapist. Repeat as many times as instructed. Stop the exercise if it causes pain and discuss it with your physical therapist or doctor. During the exercise, be sure not to bounce.

  • Sit with one leg extended and your back straight. Bend your other leg so that the sole of your foot rests against your mid-thigh.

  • Reach toward your ankle. Keep your knee, neck, and back straight.

  • Feel the stretch in the back of your thigh.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Lower Body Exercises: Hip Flexor

This exercise stretches and strengthens your lower body to help your back. Do the exercise as often as suggested by your healthcare provider. As you work out, don't rush or strain. Use an exercise mat, pillow, or folded towel to protect your knees and other sensitive areas.

  • Kneel on the floor. Put one foot on the floor in front of you, with the knee slightly bent. If you need to, hold on to a chair for balance. Tighten your abdomen.

  • Move your hips forward, keeping your back and shoulders upright. Feel the stretch in the front of your hip.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Return to starting position.

  • Repeat 2 times. Switch sides.

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Lower Body Exercises: Quad Stretch

This exercise stretches and strengthens your lower body to help your back. Do the exercise as often as suggested by your healthcare provider. As you work out, don't rush or strain. Use an exercise mat, pillow, or folded towel to protect your knees and other sensitive areas.

  • Stand arm's length from a wall. Place one hand on it.

  • With your other hand, grasp your ankle on the same side. Pull the heel toward your buttocks. Don't arch your back.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 2 times. Switch legs.

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Lower Body Exercises: Wall Slide Squats

This exercise stretches and strengthens your lower body to help your back. Do the exercise as often as suggested by your healthcare provider. As you work out, don't rush or strain. Use an exercise mat, pillow, or folded towel to protect your knees and other sensitive areas.

  • Stand with hips and shoulders touching a wall. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your ears, shoulders, hips, and feet in a line. If needed, place a rolled-up towel behind the small of your back.

  • Step forward about 2 feet, keeping your back against the wall. Slide down into a sitting position. Don't let your hips go below your knees.

  • Hold for 5 seconds, then slide up. As you get stronger, hold the position longer.

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Exercises to Increase Agility: Cross Steps

The following exercise helps to increase your ease and quickness of movement. It copies complex everyday moves. This exercise was chosen for you based on the type of activities you'll be doing.

Note: Always stretch before and after exercising. Stop any exercise that causes pain.

  • Start with knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart.

  • Cross your right foot in front of your left.

  • With your left foot, step to your left.

  • With your right foot, step behind your left foot.

  • With your left foot, step to the left.

  • After doing the cross-step sequence 2 times in that direction, switch directions.

Repeat the entire exercise 10 times.

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Exercises to Increase Agility: Short Sprints

The following exercise helps to increase your ease and quickness of movement. It copies complex everyday moves. This exercise was chosen for you based on the type of activities you'll be doing.

Note: Always stretch gently before and after exercising. Stop any exercise that causes pain.

  • Sprint forward 10-15 feet. Stop. Feel your muscles absorb the shock.

  • Sprint backward the same distance. Stop. Go forward again.

  • Continue for 2-3 minutes.

  • Gradually increase your distance, speed, and total exercise time.

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Exercises to Increase Agility: Side Steps

The following exercise helps to increase your ease and quickness of movement. It copies complex everyday moves. This exercise was chosen for you based on the type of activities you'll be doing.

Note: Always stretch before and after exercising. Stop any exercise that causes pain.

  • Start with knees bent and feet together.

  • Step to the side with your left foot.

  • Step with your right foot to meet your left foot.

  • Step 3 times. Keep your steps short and comfortable.

  • Repeat the sequence in the opposite direction.

  • Continue for 2-3 minutes.

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Foot & Ankle Exercises: Ankle Circles

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles. Before beginning the exercise, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, inform your healthcare provider.

  • Sit straight-legged on the floor or other firm surface.

  • Resting your ______ calf on a rolled-up towel, use your foot to draw circles in both directions or write the letters of the alphabet in the air.

  • Continue for ______ seconds. Do ______ times a day.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Quad Set

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your knee. Before beginning, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and use smooth movements. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, call your healthcare provider.

1.  Sit on the floor with one leg straight, the other bent.

2.  Flex the foot of your straight leg by pointing your toes toward you. Press the back of your knee into the floor while tightening the muscle on the top of your thigh. Hold for ______ seconds. Then relax.

3.  Repeat ______ times. Do ______ sets a day.

CAUTION

  • Don't arch your back.

  • Don't hunch your shoulders.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Leg Lunge

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your knee. Before beginning, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and use smooth movements. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, call your healthcare provider.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  2. With your _______ foot, step out and lower yourself into a comfortable position. Keep your back straight and your feet pointing straight ahead. As you step, the heel of the other foot lifts off the floor.

  3. Return smoothly to your starting position.

  4. Repeat ______ times. Do ______ sets a day.

CAUTION

  • Don't let your forward knee go past your toes.

  • Don't lunge so far that your rear knee touches the floor.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Step Ups

This exercise is designed to stretch and strengthen your knee. Before beginning, read through all the instructions. While exercising, breathe normally and use smooth movements. If you feel any pain, stop the exercise. If pain persists, inform your healthcare provider.

  1. Stand with your _________ foot on a 3-inch to 5-inch support (such as a block of wood) and the other foot flat on the floor.

  2. Shift your weight onto the foot on the block, straightening that knee and raising your other foot off the floor. Then slowly lower the foot until only the heel touches the floor.

  3. Return to starting position.

  4. Repeat ______ times. Do ______ sets a day.

CAUTION

  • Don't lock your knees.

  • Keep your weight on the foot that's on the block- don't push off from the floor.

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Leg Muscle Stretches: Knee Flexion

The following flexibility exercise may be suggested by your therapist. Repeat as many times as instructed. Stop the exercise if it causes pain and discuss it with your physical therapist or doctor. During the exercise, be sure not to bounce.

  • Sit with your legs extended, foot flexed. Place a towel around one heel. Hold one end of the towel in each hand.

  • Pull the towel toward you, sliding your heel toward your rear end. Keep your heel in contact with the mat.

  • You should feel a stretch across the front of your knee. Hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly slide your foot back out.

  • Repeat 5 times.

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Leg & Knee Exercises: Hip Pulls

The following exercise helps build strong, balanced leg muscles. Make sure to adjust exercise machines as instructed by your physical therapist. He or she will tell you how many times to do the exercise.

  • Stand with one leg about 1 foot away from a wall. The other foot (attached to a pulley or rubber tubing) should be a step behind.

  • Pull your attached foot forward, keeping your knees straight but not locked. (Point your toe straight forward unless told otherwise by your therapist.)

  • Return slowly and steadily to your starting position.

Note: To prevent injury, always warm up and stretch before your strengthening exercises. Stop any exercise that causes pain. Discuss it with your physical therapist or doctor.

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Exercises to Increase Agility: Figure 8s

This exercise helps to increase your ease and quickness of movement. It copies complex everyday moves. This exercise was chosen for you based on the type of activities you'll be doing.

  • Follow a large figure 8 at a slow jog or brisk walk.

  • Keep at it for 2-3 minutes. Then reverse directions.

  • Gradually decrease the size of the figure 8 and increase your speed and time.

Note: Always stretch before and after exercising. Stop any exercise that causes pain.

Figure 8's help you to move around corners and to pivot.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Quad Sets

Begin your rehabilitation with exercises that develop muscle control. These help you meet basic goals, like driving a car or going back to work. Exercise as often as you're advised. But stop right away if any exercise causes sharp or increasing pain. Icing your knee for 15-20 minutes after exercise can help prevent swelling and soreness.

  • Sit against a wall with your injured leg out straight.

  • Tighten your front thigh muscles and press the back of your knee down toward the floor.

  • Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat 5 times.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Knee Flexion

Begin your rehabilitation with exercises that develop muscle control. These help you meet basic goals, like driving a car or going back to work. Exercise as often as you're advised. But stop right away if any exercise causes sharp or increasing pain. Icing your knee for 15-20 minutes after exercise can help prevent swelling and soreness.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs out and feet flexed forward. Place a towel around the heel of your injured leg.

  • Pull the towel toward you, sliding your heel toward your buttocks. Keep the heel in contact with the floor.

  • When you feel a stretch (tightness) in the knee, hold the position for 10 seconds. Slide your foot back out. Repeat 5 times.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Stationary Bike

After you regain muscle control, it's time to build strength. This helps you be able to put your full weight on your leg. For best results, warm up and stretch before starting. If your injury is recent, wait until swelling and pain decrease before doing this exercise.

  • Once you can move your leg through a full turn, slowly pedal for 5-10 minutes. Alternate between pedaling forward and backward.

  • As your range of motion improves, pedal at a faster, steady pace.

  • To increase your endurance, pedal a few minutes longer and at a higher intensity each day.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Wall Slide Squats

After you regain muscle control, it's time to build strength. This helps you put full weight on your leg. For best results, warm up and stretch before starting. If your injury is recent, wait until swelling and pain decrease before doing this exercise.

  • Lean against a wall with your feet hip-width apart. Your feet should be about 18 inches from the wall.

  • Slowly slide down to a near-sitting position. Don't let your knees go past 90 degrees.

  • Hold for 10 seconds, then slide back up.

  • Repeat 5 times.

CAUTION: Do this exercise only if your healthcare provider says it's okay.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Hamstring Curl

Once you can bear weight on your leg without pain, start adding advanced exercises to your workout. Using gym equipment can be a good way to improve overall knee function. Before you begin, talk with a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer. Learn how to use the equipment the right way. Start slowly, and rest between each set. As you feel stronger, increase the number of sets.

  • Lie down on your stomach, being careful not to arch your back.

  • Place your heel beneath the bar of the weight machine.

  • Using a steady movement, lift your heel toward your buttocks as far as you comfortably can. Then let your leg uncurl with a slow and steady movement.

  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Caution: Ask your healthcare provider if you're ready to do this exercise. If you do too much too soon, you could create new knee problems, or even reinjure your knee.

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Lower Body Exercises: Calf Stretch

This exercise both stretches and strengthens your lower body to help your back. Do the exercise as often as suggested by your healthcare provider. As you work out, don't rush or strain. Use an exercise mat, pillow, or folded towel to protect your knees and other sensitive areas.

  • Face a wall 2 feet away. Step toward the wall with one foot.

  • Place both palms on the wall and bend your front knee.

  • Lean forward, keeping the back leg straight and the heel on the floor.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Switch legs.

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Preventing Falls: Exercises to Improve Balance, Flexibility, Strength, & Staying Power

Certain types of exercises may help make you less likely to fall. Try the ones below. Or do other exercises that your healthcare provider suggests. Depending on your health, you may need to start slowly. Don't let that stop you. Even small amounts of exercise can help you. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.

Improve Balance

Many types of exercise can help improve balance. Tai chi and yoga are good examples. Here's another one to try. You can do it anytime and almost anywhere.

  • Stand next to a counter or solid support.

  • Push yourself up onto your tiptoes.

  • Hold for 5 seconds. If you start to lose your balance, hold on to the counter.

  • Rest and repeat 5 times. Work up to holding for 20 to 30 seconds, if you can.

Increase Flexibility

Being more flexible makes it easier for you to move around safely. Try exercises like the seated hamstring stretch.

  • Sit in a chair and put one foot on a stool.

  • Straighten your leg and reach with both hands down either side of your leg. Reach as far down your leg as you can.

  • Hold for about 20 seconds.

  • Go back to the starting position. Then repeat 5 times. Switch legs.

Build Strength

"Resistance" exercises help build strength. You can do them without equipment. Or you can use weights, elastic bands, or special machines. One such exercise is called the biceps curl. You can hold a 1 pound weight or even a can of soup. Do this exercise at least 3 times a week. Strive for every day.

  • Sit up straight in a chair.

  • Keep your elbow close to your body and your wrist straight.

  • Bend your arm, moving your hand up to your shoulder. Then slowly lower your arm.

  • Repeat 5 times. Switch to the other arm.

Build Your Staying Power

"Aerobic" exercises make your heart and lungs stronger so you can keep moving longer. Walking and swimming are two of the best types of exercises you can do. Using a stationary bike is great, too. Find an aerobic exercise that you enjoy. Start slowly and build up. Even 5 minutes is helpful. Aim for a goal of 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week. You don't have to do 30 minutes in one session. Break it up and walk a little throughout the day.

More Helpful Tips

  • Start easy. Slowly work up to doing more.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about the best exercises for you.

  • Call senior centers or health clubs about exercise programs.

  • If needed, have a family member watch you walk every so often to check your stability.

  • Exercise with a friend. Choose an activity you both enjoy.

  • Try exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere. Here are two examples. Have someone with you when you first try these.

    • Practice walking by placing one foot right in front of the other.

    • Stand up and sit down 10 times. Repeat this throughout the day