4 Key ACL Swimming and Water Exercises After Surgery to Accelerate Your ACL Tear Recovery!

The swimming pool is a highly effective method for ACL tear recovery

Damaging the Anterior Cruciate Ligament is an emotionally sensitive injury that can be devastating especially in the world of sports.

Due to the severity of this type of injury, the ACL tear recovery requires careful planning and progressive set of exercises.  In a lot of individual cases having ACL reconstruction surgery can be a difficult decision because the rehabilitation period can take as long as 12 months.

Swimming after ACL surgery is one activity that is highly effective and should be built into the ACL tear recovery of every program.  Getting wet and in the pool is an easy way to get back into exercise post-surgery.

As part of your ACL rehab exercises, swimming and water activities can be used to increase strength and flexibility and can be started as early as three weeks post ACL operation.  In addition, water exercises are low-impact and can be completed with lower levels of pain.

4 Water Exercises to help with your ACL tear recovery

Swimming and water exercises can commence as soon as three weeks post-surgery, as long as the incision from surgery heals in a proper manner and there are no complications.  This can include simple range of motion exercises, light swimming, bicycle exercises in the water but no kicking or breaststroke.

However it is critical that the stitches are removed and the wound has completely healed, otherwise, chemicals from the pool or other elements might cause infection and setback the ACL tear recovery process. It is also important to consult your physician before starting water exercises.

Water exercises are considered to be a key component of your ACL tear recovery and will help strengthen and enrich flexibility for your knee.

ACL Water Exercise 1 – Walking

Start with walking in the water at approximately waist height.  Water walking is an excellent first up aqua exercise to help you regain your balance and add some lighter weight resistance.

Begin with 5 minutes daily and slowly increase the time spent on water-walking sessions up to 30 minutes with a focus on trying to walk as normally as possible.

Learning to flex and extend your knee during your ACL recovery can be a demanding process, but water exercises are low impact and can help you a lot.

ACL Water Exercise 2 – Knee Lifts

Swimming After ACL Surgery Knee Lifts

Knee lifts are an excellent way to improve knee flexibility, range of motion and your ability to extend the knee.

Start by standing straight in chest high water, feet shoulder width apart and with your back to a wall for stability.

Then slowly raise the affected knee to waist height which is approximately parallel to the surface of the water.

Next slowly lower and straighten completely the ACL knee back down to a standing position. Repeat this exercise slowly 10 times.

ACL Water Exercise 3 – Knee to Chest

Knee-to-chest stretches are another crucial exercise during the early stages of your ACL recovery that will help navigate your knee’s full range of motion.

This exercise can be done in the standing position or by sitting on a bench with water up to shoulder level and feet flat on the ground. Place your hands under your thigh and pull your knee up to as close to your chest as comfortable.  Hold this position for 5 seconds.

Slowly lower your knee back down to the resting position.

Start with ten repetitions for each set and increase the amount of sessions as the knee recovers.

Swimming After ACL Surgery Knee To Chest


ACL Water Exercise 4 – Water Jogging

After strengthening the knee ligament, the next step in an ACL tear recovery is practising water jogging.

Advanced Swimming Exercises for your ACL tear recovery

Lap swimming after ACL surgery

You may also consider advancing your exercises with some lap swimming to improve fitness. However be sure not to do any kicking until at least 8 weeks post surgery. It is also important not to put excessive pressure on the anterior cruciate ligament.

Start with an easier swimming exercise with a flotation device under the legs to limit kicking. This trick will help keep your legs on the surface of the water and will ease the pressure, while allowing you to swim with the use of your upper body.

Start swimming by focusing mainly on the upper body using the front crawl technique. This approach will put less pressure on your legs but is also a good way to get fit and physically active without hurting your knee, Try not to overdo knee work to reduce swelling. Only do straight leg kicking.


Once you manage to swim without any sensation of pain, you might consult your physician about transitioning to the butterfly or breast stroke swimming techniques. However only proceed to these latter swimming strokes if there is no pain experienced.


Overall  to supplement your ACL surgery recovery, you should exercise in the water for 20 to 30 minutes three times per week.  The above ACL water exercises are in addition to your other ACL knee exercises as discussed with your physician!

Video – ACL Swimming and Water Exercises After Surgery

Are you feeling challenged by your ACL recovery?

As a helpful guide we have put together this simple yet remarkably effective ACL Recovery Guide with 5 key phases that could help you plan and keep your ACL recovery on track and achieve your ACL rehabilitation goals.

About Brett Mitchell

Our missions is to provide ACL Knee Injury Recovery and Rehabilitation information to improve the health and wellbeing of people who have injured their Anterior Cruciate Ligament and have undergone surgery or are considering their options to increasing the functionality of their injured ACL knee. The information on our site aims to help people understand and manage their ACL knee injury. It does not replace care provided by medical practitioners and other qualified health professionals.

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Disclaimer – The information provided on this Site is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but no warranty as to the accuracy is given and each individual should not act on the basis of its contents whilst interpreting the materials without seeking assistance from a medical or healthcare professional to apply them to your individual circumstances. The information on this site is for information purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, consult your general practitioner.