Single-Leg Exercises for Knee Recovery

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Have you recently undergone knee surgery, such as an ACL tear repair or knee replacement, and are now facing the challenging road of recovery? Are you eager to get back to your favorite sports and activities but are unsure where to start? If so, you’re not alone. Recovering from knee injuries is a daunting challenge, but it’s essential to rebuild strength and stability before returning to your active lifestyle. One of the key components of successful rehabilitation is incorporating single-leg exercises into your workout routine.

Whether you’re recovering at home or hitting the gym, these exercises require minimal equipment but yield significant benefits for your rehabilitation journey.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore a variety of single-leg exercises designed to help you rebuild knee strength, stability, and confidence. Let’s get into these exercises that will take you towards a full recovery and return to the activities you love!

Exercise #1. Knee Over Toes Step Down

Let’s start with the knee over toes step down exercise. This is fundamental for rebuilding strength and control in the knee joint – essential for any athletic movement. By gradually lowering yourself with one leg while keeping the knee aligned over the toes, you’ll strengthen the quadriceps and improve knee stability.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Find a sturdy box or step that is challenging but allows you to maintain balance. Place it next to a wall for support if needed.
  2. Stand on the edge of the box with one foot hanging off the edge.
  3. Slowly lower yourself by bending the knee of the hanging leg, aiming to touch the ground with your heel.
  4. Maintain control and ensure the knee stays aligned over the toes throughout the movement.
  5. Hold the lowered position briefly before pushing back up to the starting position, fully extending the hip and knee.
  6. Focus on eccentric loading the quadriceps and hinging the hip back as you descend, then drive through the midfoot to push back up.
  7. Aim for high volume, performing sets of 12 to 15 repetitions to improve control and strength.

Exercise #2. Lunges Using Towel or Sliders

This exercise with just using towels or sliders challenges the knee joint in multiple planes of motion, essential for regaining athletic movement capabilities. This will target forward, backward, and lateral movements, enhancing stability and proprioception.

Demonstrate Lateral lunges
Demonstrate Lateral lunges

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, one foot on a towel or slider.
  2. Initiate the movement by sliding the foot on the towel or slider out to the side into a lateral lunge.
  3. Push through the heel of the lunging leg to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the movement in the backward, forward, and curtsy lunge variations to target different muscle groups and movement patterns.
  5. Focus on maintaining proper alignment and control throughout each lunge variation.
  6. Perform sets of 8, combining all four variations for one set, and aim for 3 to 4 sets to improve endurance and stability.

Exercise #3. Assisted Pistol Squat with TRX

Next up is the assisted pistol squat using a TRX. This variation offers invaluable support while simultaneously pushing your single-leg strength and balance to the limit, both vital components for enhancing athletic prowess. With this, you’ll not only boost your range of motion but also refine your control over the knee joint, facilitating a safer return to sports activities.

Demonstrate assisted pistol squat with TRX
Demonstrate assisted pistol squat with TRX
Demonstrate assisted pistol squat with TRX

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Hold onto a TRX strap or stable support for balance.
  2. Extend one leg forward while keeping the other leg planted firmly on the ground.
  3. Slowly lower yourself into a squat position on the planted leg, ensuring proper alignment.
  4. Focus on controlling the descent, aiming for a slow 5-second count.
  5. Push through the heel of the planted leg to return to the starting position, engaging the glutes and quadriceps.
  6. Perform 8 to 10 repetitions on each leg for 3 to 4 sets, focusing on slow and controlled movements.

Exercise #4. Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats target the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings while improving single-leg stability and control. This exercise emphasizes proper knee alignment and hip stability, crucial for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Demonstrate bulgarian split squats
Demonstrate bulgarian split squats

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Position yourself in a split stance with the rear foot elevated on a bench or box.
  2. Lower yourself into a lunge position, ensuring the front knee stays aligned over the toes.
  3. Focus on loading the hips and driving through the heel of the front foot to return to the starting position.
  4. Perform 8 to 15 repetitions on each leg for 3 to 4 sets, adjusting weight as needed to maintain proper form and control.

Exercise #5. Single Leg RDLs

The last exercise is the Single-leg RDLs. This targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back while improving balance and stability. This exercise helps develop eccentric control and strength, crucial for deceleration and injury prevention during sports activities.

Demonstrate single leg RDLs
Demonstrate single leg RDLs
Demonstrate single leg RDLs

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Stand on one leg with a slight bend in the knee and a flat back.
  2. Hinge at the hips while reaching the opposite hand towards the ground, keeping the back leg straight for balance.
  3. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine and hinging from the hips, feeling a stretch in the hamstrings.
  4. Return to the starting position by driving through the heel of the standing leg and engaging the glutes.
  5. Perform 8 to 15 repetitions on each leg for 3 to 4 sets, focusing on slow and controlled movements.

Check this video out to learn more! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN3vFRtKiJA


When you are recovering from an ACL injury, knee replacement, or other knee-related issues, these exercises can help you return to your favorite sports and activities you love. Incorporate these single-leg exercises into your rehabilitation routine to start rebuilding that strength, stability, and confidence in your knees.  Remember to always focus on proper form, control, and gradual progression to ensure a safe and effective recovery journey. 

Ready to hit the field again? We got your back! At Myokinetix, we’re the go-to experts for bouncing back from knee-related injuries, especially ACL injuries. Our team of experienced healthcare experts has helped numerous athletes like you get back to playing the sports they love. We don’t just focus on recovery; we’re all about taking your performance to the next level!

Ready to get started? Book a call with us today and let’s kickstart your recovery journey together!

1 thought on “Single-Leg Exercises for Knee Recovery”

  1. Single-leg exercises can be highly effective for knee recovery. They help to improve strength, stability, and balance by targeting the muscles around the knee, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Exercises like single-leg squats, lunges, and step-ups can be particularly beneficial. Always start with a proper warm-up and consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to ensure these exercises are suitable for your specific condition.

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