Knee Rehabilitation Programs

Step by step knee rehabilitation programs & exercises which take you from initial injury to full competition fitness.

Created by our elite-level sports physiotherapists, based on what they would do with their elite athletes but adapted for use by anyone.

knee rehabilitation mobile phone app

Start your knee rehabilitation now!

We have the following step by step knee rehabilitation programs for specific injuries. They have been created by our elite level sports physios and are available online or via our injury rehab app.

ACL Sprain

Full rehabilitation program

A full step-by-step criteria-based rehab program for ACL sprain or anterior cruciate ligament sprain. Created by England Rugby Team Consultant Physio Phil Pask.

MCL Sprain

Full rehabilitation program

A full step-by-step criteria-based rehab & strengthening program for Medial knee ligament sprain. Created by England Rugby Team Consultant Physio Phil Pask.

LCL Sprain

Full rehabilitation program

A full step-by-step criteria-based rehab program for LCL sprain or Lateral knee ligament sprain. Created by England Rugby Team Consultant Physio Phil Pask.

Jumper’s Knee

Full rehabilitation program

A full step-by-step criteria-based rehabilitation program for Jumper’s knee. Created by elite-level football Physio Paul Tanner.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Full rehabilitation program

A full step-by-step criteria-based rehabilitation program -or Iliotibial band friction syndrome. Created by elite-level football Physio Paul Tanner.

VMO Knee Strengthening

Full rehabilitation program

A full step-by-step criteria-based strengthening program targeting the Vastus medialis oblique muscle. Created by elite-level football Physio Paul Tanner.

Phases of knee rehabilitation

Knee rehabilitation

Knee rehabilitation will vary depending on the injury and you as an individual. However, they generally follow the progression outlined below.

Our knee rehabilitation programs usually break down into 4 phases with a 5th injury ‘mitigation/prevention’ phase. Because every injury is different and every athlete is different our programs are criteria-based rather than timeline.

This means you have to reach specific criteria or milestones rather than a period of time before moving on to the next phase.

Phase 1

This is the acute phase and begins as soon as possible after injury. The main aim here is to reduce pain, swelling and allow your body to heal. Applying the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice compression and elevation are most important.

Even though you might be injured there are always exercises you can do in phase 1 which will speed up your recovery later and keep you in a training routine.

Seek professional advice and get an accurate diagnosis of your injury. This is not always possible for knee joint injuries if you have a lot of swelling. Your doctor or physio may want to wait until the swelling has gone down so they can perform accurate knee assessment tests.

By the end of phase one, you should have minimal swelling and be able to walk virtually pain-free.

Phase 2

By now you should be aiming to improve the range of movement of the joint. You will also begin to increase the ability of your knee to take load but in a controlled environment.

Here we would introduce some exercises involving functional movement patterns using mainly body weight.

Phase 3

The aim of phase 3 is to prepare your knee to withstand heavier loads throughout the full range of movement. Here we also like to introduce dynamic loading rehabilitation exercises such as hopping and jumping.

You should be aiming to run at up to 50% maximum speed. However, it is still important to protect your injury as the healing process is not yet complete.

Phase 4

Phase 4 prepares you to return to your normal sport or activity safely to perform at your best with confidence. This confidence will be born out of completing more demanding exercises with heavier loads, unpredictable movements, changes of direction, and agility all performed under pressure and fatigue.

Phase 5

Often we include a 5th maintenance phase to help mitigate the risk of re-injury. Although you should by now be back to full fitness (perhaps even stronger than before), you should still monitor your knee and integrate knee rehabilitation exercises into your normal training. You cannot ever prevent injury, but you can mitigate the risk.

Go mobile!

Take your program with you to the gym or training field. Our sports injury rehabilitation mobile app tells you what treatment and exercises to do each day and tracks your progress.

  • Video-based programs
  • Set alerts & reminders
  • Records daily progress

Download now for FREE!

Types of knee rehab exercises

Knee rehabilitation is not just about strengthening your knee and the muscles around it. Our approach is to condition and work on other parts of the body as well. We use the following types of exercises:

Mobility

Quad stretch knee rehabilitation exercise

These exercises aim to maintain or regain full range of movement in your knee. If you have a ligament or joint injury or significant joint swelling then your mobility is likely to be restricted.

Strengthening

strenthening exercises for knee rehabilitation

These form the main part of any knee rehabilitation or strengthening program. They strengthen the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh, as well as what we call the posterior chain (hamstrings & gluteal muscles).

Activation

Glute band squat activation exercise knee rehabilitation

These exercises are all about keeping muscles firing and working properly, particularly the hip muscles. This is often overlooked with knee rehabilitation. If you have to rest for a period of time then they can ‘go to sleep’ and lose strength, leading to a slower recovery, or poor performance later when you get back to full fitness.

Movement control

Forward t knee rehab exercise

Movement control exercises are all about coordination, balance, and proprioception. Proprioception is how your body senses where parts of it are in space and are damaged when you are injured. Improving this is important for sports performance and preventing injury.

Functional knee rehab exercises

Functional knee rehab exercise

These are activity or sports-specific exercises and include more complex exercises and agility drills but in a controlled environment. They bridge the gap between basic knee strengthening exercises and returning to more sports-specific training.

Conditioning

agility for knee rehabilitation

These are all about maintaining general fitness as much as possible. In the early stages of rehabilitation, this might be arm-only swimming or concentrating on your upper body strength in the gym. Later on, running progressions involving acceleration runs, agility and intervals are included.

Q Angle of the knee & VMO exercises

The Q angle of the knee is a measurement of the angle between the quadriceps muscles and the patella tendon. It provides useful information about the alignment of the knee joint.

VMO strengthening is one of the most important knee rehab exercises.

This is especially relevant with overuse injuries such as Patellofemoral pain, Patella tendonitis, or Osgood Schlatter disease.

With many sports injuries affecting the legs, one of the first muscles to waste away is the Vastus medialis muscle on the inside of the thigh.

It plays an important part in the position and tracking of the patella or kneecap.

Strapping & taping for knee rehab

We have the following knee strapping & taping video tutorials:

Patellofemoral Pain Taping

Patella taping for knee rehabilitation

How to tape the patella as part of knee rehabilitation for Patella pain syndrome or Chondramalacia patella.

Patella tendon taping

How to tape the patella tendon to relieve symptoms of Jumper’s knee or Osgood Schlatter Disease.

Knee ligament taping

knee ligament taping

How to tape for knee ligament injuries such as MCL sprain, ACL sprain or general support.

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