HomeInjury managementStrength training for leg injuries

Strength training for leg injuries

Strength training for leg injuries
  • Strength training for leg injuries is perfect for building tissue tolerance and movement patterns as it’s highly configurable for specific goals
  • Strength training should be carefully controlled and progressed in keeping with tissue healing and injury recovery
  • Exercises target potential underlying causes, maintenance of general leg strength and progressive loading of the injured tissue

Phase 1

  • Gentle loading on the injured structure
    • No more than mild discomfort at the injury site
    • No residual soreness after exercises
    • In stable positions (on two feet, holding on to support, etc)
    • Eg. Isometric (static) holds while leaning against a wall
  • Moderate loading on uninjured areas
  • Cardio training without stressing the injured area
    • If possible, add some simple cardio in but not at the risk of irritating the healing tissue
    • Cardio selection does not need to be related to your sporting goals
    • Use an interval or variable intensity approach for best effect
    • Eg. Bike for 10min including 5min of 20sec hard:10sec easy repeats
Single leg barbell deadlift – great for upper leg strength without aggravating lower leg injuries

Phase 2

  • Increase loading on injured structure
    • If you’ve torn muscle, tendon or ligament fibres, focus on increasing force rather than increasing length
    • Add some movement patterns but only if you can complete the movement with good technique
    • Mild discomfort is OK if it’s not sharp, increasing or lingering
    • Eg. Single leg box squats for FAI
  • Add complex movement patterns for uninjured areas
    • Progress towards movement patterns required for your chosen sport
    • Upgrade weight, speed or complexity of an exercise but only one parameter at a time
    • Maintain a few basic strength exercises as adding instability and speed will diminish strength gains
    • Eg. Reverse lunges for PFPS
  • Upgrade cardio
    • Increase session intensity and overall weekly volume rather than just increasing each session’s duration
    • Add variety to cardio if possible, such as bike and rower, but not at the expense of overloading the injured tissue
    • If the target sport includes running, consider adding a small amount of running to begin to refresh movement patterns (see our guide on return to running)
Shoulder elevated single leg hip bridge – performed with speed, it improves trunk strength and leg power as you get closer to returning to full training

Phase 3

  • Load the injured tissue during complex movements
    • Select movement patterns that mimic sporting demands
    • Control the loading via speed, range and complexity of the movement
    • There should be no discomfort or soreness at the injury site, however mild tightness may be experienced
    • Eg. Walking lunge for calf tears
  • Add a combination of heavy loading, complex and high speed movements
    • Select sport-specific movement patterns
    • Deliberately involve the injured area but only with correct technique (no compensations)
    • Add load or speed based on the requirements of the sport
    • Eg. Box jumps for return to basketball
  • Sport-specific cardio
    • Focus on correct technique separately, ie. not during high intensity sessions
    • Be wary of fatigue as it will adversely affect technique
    • Short sessions of high intensity with variable workload are best for regaining fitness
    • Eg. Running intervals of 100m with longer rest breaks
Kettlebell step overs – mimics running action, challenges stability and leg power

Sport-specific phase

  • This phase focuses on your successful return to full participation
  • It’s highly specific to your sport, your injury and duration of your recovery so there are no generic recommendations
  • Take more time than you feel necessary to return to full loading as we’re typically optimistic with self assessment
  • Get feedback from a trusted source (eg. experienced coach) on your technique and performance to spot any missing links prior to full training loads
Single leg TRX row – great for deceleration and downhill running with high demands on quads, hip & trunk strength and control