Top 5 Knee Range of Motion Exercises to do during ACL Surgery Recovery

Getting the knee back to full range of motion is important following ACl surgery. Once you achieve full range of motion after surgery you will be able to progress through other physio exercises that can greatly speed up your return to activity. It is for this reason that full range of motion within the first few weeks can be the difference between a successful ACL surgery recovery or not. These are the 5 most helpful exercises at restoring a full range of motion in your knee. These have helped me get to 130 degree range of motion by the end of week 2.

Top 5 Knee Range of Motion Exercises After ACL Surgery

Range of Motion Exercises

Range of Motion

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 1 – Heel Prop

The heel prop has you lying on your back with your heel elevated and knee hanging under its own weight wanting to return to 0 degrees. This exercise can cause some discomfort immediatly after surgery but is the most effective exercise at getting your range of motion to 0 degrees on extension

Heel Prop

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 2 – Heel Slides

Heel slides are good at both increasing your range of motion as well as increasing your knees strength. In the same position as the Heel Prop, lying on your back, remove the “prop” from under your heel so your leg is lying flat on the ground. With your leg flat on the ground slide your heel towards your but. This will stregthen your hamstring muscles as well as improve your range of motion.


Heel Slides

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 3 – Prone Knee Flexion

Range of Motion Exercise 3 – Prone Knee Flexion
Roll over onto your stomach and bend your knee moving your heel as close to your butt as possible. Again this exercise will improve your hamstrings strength and your knees range of motion.


Prone Knee Flexion

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 4 – Bike Pendulums

While sitting in a chair make ½ to full circles with no resistance. This will improve your range of motion and muscle communication.


Bike Pendulums - "bad form!"

Knee Range of Motion Exercise 5 – Quad Sets

Quad sets are when you place something, pillow or towel, under your knee and then flex your quad to push your knee into the towel or pillow. This increases the strength in your knee and helps get your knee back to 0 degrees range of motion.


Quad Sets

Additional tip to improve range of motion – sleep with nothing under your knee and on your back. The bed will bend enough to support the knee and having a slow, very gentle, extension overnight will grealy decrease the length of time it will take to get full extension in your knee.

The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery

Click Here to see the exercises


  1. sleep with nothing under your knee and on your back. The bed will bend enough to support the knee and having a slow, very gentle, extension overnight will grealy decrease the length of time it will take to get full extension in your knee replecement surgery video
    on Surgery Video

  2. Hey you have been a great help on Yahoo Answers. 🙂
    I go for my first ACL surgery in 2 weeks. The only reason why I’m nervous is because I’m a dum dum and watched a few videos on youtube.
    Anyway, thanks again for the help. I hope to be back to playing golf by the spring.

    Jessica E

  3. Hi Jessica, yah the videos on Youtube are scary…but its a very common surgery and has a very high success rate. I am not going to lie though, my first surgery I was nervous, I had never been put to sleep before and didnt like the though of having no control for a few hours. I rationalized as much as possible that there is no reason to be nervous but it is human nature to be nervous. You aren’t the first or last person to be nervous. Good luck with the surgery and recovery. Its always good to have a carrot(Golf by spring) in front of you to stay motivated.

  4. Hey Jon, I really appriciate this website. I had my ACL Pantella Graft Repari on Dec 13th 2010 so I am really interested in keeping up with your recovery in comparison to mine. What was the specific event that caused your first ACL retear? I have had a pretty fast recovery so far, but I want to make sure I dont pust myself too hard.

  5. Good stuff with the recovery…glad to hear it is going well. For me my re-tear occurred when I played soccer 8 months after my initial surgery, I also re-injured the meniscus playing volleyball after the soccer re-tear. The danger with a fast initial recovery, for me at least, is that I get overconfident with how it is doing and then push it too hard. If you are wanting to get back for a competitive sport than its understandable to push a little harder than you otherwise would, but my advice if you are looking t return to recreational play than take your time…I should have. Good luck with your recovery. Any exercises in particular that helped you get to full knee extension?

  6. Hey all, thanks Jon for all the advice and tips. I am currently 17 days out of ACL surgery with a hamstring graft and partial meniscus work. It is really awesome to have this site to use as a guide because I am in South Korea currently. The doctors seem to ”baby’ the patients a bit. I am trying not too push it too hard but not be too soft and suffer future scar tissue and other related issues with nothing little exercise. Thanks again!

  7. I am scheduled for an ACL repair with an allograft on March 1. My doctor has given me a knee immobilizer to bring to surgery, and tells me I will be wearing it for a month. I can’t believe you were walking without a brace in a few days. Do different doctors use different techniques? I want to be back at work ASAP, but he tells me I won’t be able to drive because I won’t be able to bend my knee.

  8. Hi Sue, yes different surgeons use different techniques. I was not able to walk this well all the time. Even at 8 weeks post op now I still have some pain when I walk too quickly. Good luck with your recovery.

  9. Joan Derryberry says

    Hi Jon,
    I had arthroscopic surgery Feb. 2 – trimming up a torn meniscus and My torn ACL was knotted up in the joint of my knee and had to be totally “cleaned out” I have not had the knee replacement surgery. The doctor is going this route 1st with some therapy and stating since I’m 55 he doesn’t think it’s necessary at this time. I was wondering if your 5 range of motions exercise are still helpful after this procedure. Any idea? Thanks, Joan

  10. Subrata Chakraborty says

    I had arthoscopic surgery July 17,2007. After that did not have face any problem. On February 1,2011 I met an accident in Kolkata by a motor cycle and next day rushed to AMRI Hospital in Kolkata. Dr.told me to do MRI for both the knees and there is no untoward report in MRI report. At present I am wearing full length Knee Brace on right knee and I am feeling very light in and around knee as if there is no knee. Please advise me regrading fast receovery.

  11. Jon Haver says

    Sounds like you banged your knee up pretty good. Without knowing more its tough to say but try and do all the basic exercises first and hopefully that will help you with your knee pain. These range of motion exercises should help.

  12. Hi All,

    Ruptured my ACL while playing badminton Dec last year, after PT of nearly 2 months went under the knife on 21 Feb’11. Currently 6th week pre-op and have achieved full ROM with no pain at all(fingers crossed). However thigh muscles are still pretty lose and less in bulk than the un-injured leg, moving ahead on directions of physiotherapist.

    As per my experience pre PT is a must and full ROM must be achieved before going in for the surgery. Was pretty nervous before surgery and under extreme stress but everything went well and I must admit when doctors say ACL surgery is pretty safe and successful they are not lying:).

    Between there are couple of homoeopathic medicines which ease with post-op recovery Arnica 30C is one of em.

    Warm Regards,

  13. Jess Vinall says

    Hey! I tore my ACL, PCL, LCL, and my popliteus tendon. I can’t have surgery until my range of motion improves. I go in on Monday for physical therapy. I will try these exercises and hope for the best! Would love to get surgery soon!


  14. Brian Haynes says

    What range of motion can I expect after a full knee replacement? I had my left knee replaced 5 week ago.
    I can walk good, but it still has pain when trying to sleep.
    I can get 130 degrees most of the time, 120 degrees is easy.

  15. I’m in 4th week of second ACL reconstruction. I’m struggling to get satisfactory mobility despite doing everything physio tells me, and more! Where should I be at 4 weeks? It’s still swollen as well and pain persists mostly on the side of the knee.

    All the exercises above are in my programme, but not helping anymore..

    Thanks for these pages – very helpful!


  16. what can you do fort he pain the first few days? 17 year old daughter just had acl repair/hamstring and meniscus repair. yesterday… She is in tons of pain…and taking pain meds regularly, ice and using the machine…any suggestions? thx

  17. I just had ACL surgery done last week. November 8! I did the patellar tendon graft. I had my first physical therapy session yesterday and it was quite a pain. My concern, along with my range of motion to bend, is that I can’t lift my leg up on its own…at all! It seems as if my leg is almost paralyzed in the thigh. I lost all the muscle and I can’t lift it upwards and its quite scary. I have problems trying to walk again because I can’t move my leg forward to take a step. Along with that, it is so hard to get me bending back. Any tips?

    Thank you so much! This website is an life saver!

    – Amy

  18. THANK YOU so very much everyone for your information this page is amazing. I am five days post op from meniscus, PCL and cadaver ACL repair surgery. I was jogging with my dog and was struck by a truck in a crosswalk. I am doing my excercises as instructed by my hamstring seems to be sleep as I can’t bend or lift my leg without help. Any advice? I just want to run again! :'(

  19. I had ACL surgery April 28th, 2014. I ended up getting a blood clot near my calf 5 days after the surgery. Spent 5 days in the hospital. It’s been a little over a month and I just got approved to do physical therapy through the VA medical center. I can only flex about 30 degrees and I can only extend to 10 degrees. I have done 5 pt sessions and I’ve approved a little but not much. Seems like my knee is stuck at about 30 degrees. I try to force it to bend but it’s painful and I can’t. I just now started walking without crutches. I move pretty slow. I’m worried that I might have to have manipulation under anesthesia to get my knee to bend. Does anyone think it will improve if I keep doing the stretches and pt sessions? I’m 5 weeks out from my surgery now.

  20. I had a ACL repair along with meniscotomy on May 30. The doc kept my knee straightened till June 21. After that he asked me to start bending the knee. In these past 2 weeks I have been able to move it to 90 degrees. Since the past 4 days it is stuck at 90degrees and isnt bending more. MOreover every morning it loses 5 degrees and i have to again get it back to 90 degrees beyond which there is a lot of pain. What can be done now??