I received a message from somebody who asked, “Coach Dirk, what can I do to strengthen my legs in preparation for knee replacement surgery?” The first step of course, is receiving clearance from your doctor to begin an exercise program. While major lifting exercises might not be the best option in this circumstance, there are many exercises you can do to help you strengthen your legs and knees to improve functionality in preparation for surgery and recovery following surgery.
These exercises are beneficial for post-surgery recovery per your doctor’s recommendations, they are also important to prepare for the surgery so as to help you improve your recovery from surgery and better prepare you for the surgery by increasing blood circulation, increase strength and muscle density and help you maintain mobility.
Make sure you follow all your doctors’ recommendations in terms of permitted range of motion and load limits on the legs. For each exercise, we will be training for endurance which means light weight and high repetitions. Perform each exercise for 2-4 sets of 15-20 repetitions and select a weight that you can lift up to 20 reps by the last round with challenge but without breaking form. Remember to listen to your body and know the difference between the pain of burning muscles and pain that would be a signal to stop. If you feel any kind of uncomfortable pain, stop the exercise and consult with your doctor.
I did not include any flexibility exercises due to restrictions of knee range of motion and other factors that influence the need for knee replacement surgery. Stretching and flexibility exercises should be consulted with your doctor and qualified physical therapist based on their recommendations for your specific circumstance, After your surgery, be sure to consult with your doctor and physical therapist on your limitations and schedule for return to exercise. Recovery is a slow process, so be patient and stay focused on the improvements you make every day.
By Dirk Smith
Coach Dirk, CSCS, is a sport psychology expert, performance coach, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete. He brings over 10 years of experience as a coach, athlete, personal trainer, fitness instructor, and sports psychologist to drive athletes to build their own self efficacy and express themselves through sport.