Coach Nicholas Katsidis training professional athlete Nathan Sim working on rehab for ACL.

Coach Nicholas Katsidis training professional athlete Nathan Sim working on rehab for ACL.

I am a long-time member of the ACL Club (not a club to join by choice). I gained my membership by having four knee reconstructions (YES FOUR!!). My last one was fixed by the amazing Mr. David Young, whom used a rather new procedure which saw him take a 30cm long strip of my iliotibial band (ITB), keeping it attached to its own blood supply and then wrapping it back through my knee to create a new ACL (pretty cool hey!). 

Ok, so let’s take a look at functional training and how it is absolutely beneficial and necessary for ACL reconstruction patients.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are  unfortunately amongst the most common injuries in sport and once ruptured, reconstructive surgery is required to get stability and functionality back. Post-surgery there is a period of intense rehabilitation with the goal of the rehab program being to regain mobility and muscle function and ultimately to return to sports participation. However, despite this rehabilitation, deficits in muscle function of the operated leg persist up to several years post-surgery and possibly for the rest of the life of the owner of the knee. 

There are several studies that have demonstrated moderate-to-strong associations between thigh muscle strength (primarily quadriceps strength) and knee function after ACL-reconstruction. People who have regained high levels of quadriceps strength after ACL-reconstruction are more likely to return early to their previous sports activity and at the same level as before the injury. Thus, it seems that quadriceps strength is an important determinant for satisfaction after the ACL-reconstruction. 

This is where high intensity functional training (HIFT) come into play, and what F45 does so well. High-intensity functional training sits between resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and gives you some of the benefits of both. Functional movement patterns replicate normal day to day movements, loading the body in the way that it was designed to. You then add to this a degree of resistance, in the form of weights, be it kettle bells, sleds, dumbbells or barbells, whilst performing these regular movements and what we see is an increase in muscular strength in all the right areas needs for a stable knee. 

Here are a few examples of these functional movements:

Farmers Walk - The Farmer’s Walk is a great move to strengthen your legs because you must take powerful strides while holding a load. And while working your legs you will also improve your posture, grip and core strength.

Step Ups/Step Downs – A safer way to strengthen your legs especially if you have knee pain, is the Step Up and variations of the move. Plus, it is a super functional move since many of us walk up stairs or have to use step stools or ladders in our everyday lives.

Kettlebell Swings - These explosive hip movement are needed to jump higher and even run faster. They develop coordination and mind-body connection, as well as the glute strength and power, things that everyone needs for everyday life.

Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Rotation - The Reverse lunge with Rotation combines a lot of movement changes and challenges your balance, mobility and core stability all at the same time.

Sled Pushing/pulling - Sled pushing and pulling develops some solid strength in the glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads, and core.

Of  course, like any exercise there is danger of injury (but everyday life also offers this), however if performed with great technique, and by starting with light weights or even no weight, this risk decreases greatly. From my personal experience, functional training has helped with not only the physical development of my muscular movements and strength but also it has helped psychologically, which was actually the hardest part of the rehabilitation process. I give two big thumbs up to high intensity functional training and would love to hear your thoughts on this too.


*disclosure: the above is general guide, opinion and recommendation only – it is advisable to seek out further information from a GP or physician if you have any medical/health conditions or concerns.

By Clarita Farrugia