I am speaking strictly out of personal experience here, and you should most definitely take the advice of your doctor and/or physical therapist over this post…but I am writing what has helped me the most in my “post ACL reconstruction” workouts.
A brief history, I’ve had three knee surgeries for three issues: a left ACL tear, a left bucket-handle meniscus tear, and a right ACL tear. Both ACL reconstructions were done with my own hamstring tendons from the same side leg.
All three surgeries went well, but over the years I can tell (and was later proven through a MRI) that the reconstructed ligament from my earliest surgery had stretched. Because of this I take extra care to understand my workouts and determine which ones work the best at maintain and increasing my stability. The exercises that I find work the best for me and my knees are:
Two-armed kettlebell swings
Lunges (light weight, high reps)
Single legged body squats on BOSU ball
Razors – kneeling with a partner holding your ankles down as you slowly lower your chest to the ground…i.e., using your hamstrings to slow the motion.
Hamstring curls – laying on your back and resting Swiss ball under your heels, push your pelvis into the air, and roll the Swiss ball into your glutes.
Front squats (light weight, high reps)
Side leg raises
Abs – with a focus on planks
(I completely avoid leg extensions at all costs. I wouldn’t even recommend leg extensions to those without knee problems. The sheer tension on your knee throughout this workout puts tremendous stress on vulnerable tendons.)
By completing this list of exercises on my standard leg day, not only do I get a phenomenal workout, but I also have dramatically increased my knee stability. This has been absolutely crucial as I love remaining athletically active, particularly in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Have you ever wondered how your one rep max is calculated? Before creating Functional Strength Lab’s 1RM calculator, I asked the same question. I visited many sites to determine the math and reasoning behind the various calculations. Some of my findings were very interesting:
There are seven distinct formulas that have been proposed to calculate 1RM’s. Two have become the industry standards: Epley & Brzycki. The five other calculations are slightly more complicated and are less recognized: Lander, Lombardi, Mayhew et al., O’Conner et al., & Wathan
All calculations can be used interchangeably for all of the big three lifts: Bench Press, Squat, Dead Lift.
All calculations require a weight that you can rep out for more than two reps, but less than 10-12 to remain fairly accurate.
These calculations can help you avoid injuries that often result from actually performing your One Rep Max. While it’s difficult to refrain from “proving” your strength through one rep maxes, it seems pointless when you can craft your workouts using the fairly accurate figures that these calculations will spit out.
Various Calculations (where “r” stands for reps and “w” stands for weight used):
***Most Commonly Recognized 1RM Formulas***
– Epley Formula –
– Bryzicki Formula –
***Less Recognized 1RM Formulas***
– LanderFormula –
– Lombardi Formula–
– Mayhew, et al. –
– O’Conner etal. –
– Wathan –
You can either crack open your notebook and start using these formulas yourself, or you can use these pre-crafted 1RM calculators created by Functional Strength Lab:
Oftentimes it may seem that purchasing fitness related gifts might offend the recipient. However, for your self-proclaimed fitness-freak friends and family, there is nothing wrong with giving creative, fitness-related gifts this holiday season. For a list of a few fitness themed gift ideas see below:
Enroll your recipient in a 5K, obstacle run, or other organized walk/runs. This gift is especially thoughtful if it is given in conjunction with expenses-paid travel plans to an interesting destination. For example, a 5K run through a nearby city or adjoining state, may be a fun gift idea for your outgoing fitness friends.
Travel Fitness Pack – If your friends like to remain fit, but their job requires extensive travel, consider travel-friendly fitness gear. For example: fitness bands, ab wheels, jump ropes, and suspension trainers are all great, compact fitness tools.
High End Supplements – if you happen to know what supplements your recipient takes regularly — investigate high-quality versions of the supplements on their list. I like many others, enjoy supplementation, but don’t often splurge on the highest quality versions. A high quality multi-vitamin, fish oils, or protein powders are good options if you are uncertain of the supplements your recipient takes.
Unorthodox Fitness Trial Memberships – for those friends who enjoy exploring creative fitness outlets, consider signing them up for short-term memberships to new activities. For example, jiu jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, yoga, pilates, and adult sports leagues are available in nearly all medium-to-large sized cities.
Fitness Apps – there are a lot of great fitness apps out there, but most people don’t splurge on the paid version. Instead most opt for the ad-laden, or feature depleted free versions. Consider exploring which free-fitness apps your recipient already has and buying the premium version. For the braver gift givers, consider sending an app they haven’t even tried.
‘Tis the season for gift giving! Luckily offering functional strength tools/workout equipment can be both incredibly thoughtful and affordable. Offering gifts around strength training also doesn’t have the same implications as giving standard fitness equipment (ahem…you need to lose weight.) Instead building strength is incredibly useful to all genders and ages, and a great topic to build your gift ideas around.
If you’re looking for great functional strength equipment, consider gifting one of the six great fitness gift ideas:
Resistance Bands. These are incredibly affordable and great ideas for recipients who travel frequently. A full body workout is entirely possible and space efficient when in a pinch using resistance bands
In-door-frame pull up bar – body weight exercises are incredibly effective and usually safer than many free weight workout options
BOSU Ball – incorporating a balance component to any standard workouts only serves to make the workout more functional. For example, try repping out more than five single leg squats on a BOSU. I dare you.
Battle Ropes – Assuming your recipient has enough space, battle ropes are a phenomenal builder of functional strength. Battle ropes create and excellent cardio and strength hybrid workout
Please feel free to submit your own gift ideas below in the comments section. I’d love to hear new and creative fitness gift ideas!
Battle Ropes Provide a Great Functional Strength Workout
Common and Effective Functional Strength Exercises
This list should have been written a long time ago, but better late than never…Here is a list of exceptional functional strength exercises:
Pull Ups: The standard pull up is an exceptional functional strength workout. Pull ups can be modified to focus on various muscle groups — the back, the biceps, or the forearms. Many body weight exercises make for great functional workouts as you’ll see throughout the list.
Push Ups: Like the pull up, this old-fashioned body weight exercise is great for building strength in multiple muscle groups (ex: chest, tris, back, abdominals)
Burpees: This multi-faceted movement is incredibly impactful and doesn’t take a lot of space (could be why they are so popular in prisons). Another benefit of this whole body workout is the fact that it doubles as a great cardio workout.
Anything Kettlebell: almost all kettlebell movements are complex and engaging. The two handed swing is probably the simplest most complete workout. The Turkish Get Up is another great workout, but is far more difficult to learn to do properly. Check out YouTube clips from certified kettlebell instructors for a cheap, and effective way to stay safe. Want a rough estimate of what weight you should be using, check out our kettlebell weight calculator.
Squat: Simple exercise, but extremely effective. As with all of these lifts, ensure that you use excellent form and appropriate weights to avoid injuries. Many squat workout routines revolve around your one rep max, but performing maxes can be dangerous. Use our squat max calculator to avoid injury, while still getting a great estimate for your squat max. Remember that there are many forms of squats…and…front squats often more closely mimic realistic strength movements.
Deadlift: Another simple, but extremely effective workout. Good form and proper weights are critical for maintaining safety in all lifts, but this one particularly. Make sure you have a certified lifting coach to help you learn the nuances of this lift. Like the squat, many deadlift routines are based on your one rep max, which is a dangerous metric to gather. Use Functional Strength Lab’s One Rep Deadlift Max calculator to estimate your one rep max.
Battle Ropes: Battle Ropes have grown in popularity after their use by MMA many fighters prepping for their bouts. Battle ropes engage the core, the arms, and the legs all while providing a great cardio workout. The undulating resistance mimics many functional movements.
Club Bells: Club bells are ancient workout equipment, but they have also grown in popularity based on their functional strength range of motion. All signs point to Asia as the birthplace of club bells, but regardless of where they originate from, they provide excellent functional movement resistance. It also provides a great cardio workout.
Jump Rope: A lot of people don’t equate jumping rope with strength, but jumping rope is tremendous for developing strength in the shoulders and the calves. To top it all off, it is developing this strength all while improving balance and eye hand coordination.
Lunges: Another simple body weight exercise with the option to add weights. There are TONS of variations of lunges, and they can be made more difficult by adding bands or weight resistance. Lunges are great for developing lower body strength, explosiveness, and balance.
I have seen club bells growing in popularity recently, and was wondering if they were worth the seemingly exorbitant price? I’ve found plastic ones less that 15lbs that are still in the $50-$70 range. When I watch the videos on YouTube, it seems like massive chunks of the workout are entirely momentum-based, and focused on flexibility rather than strength. Before I shell out any money for these, I want to know if club bells have worked for any of my readers.
I found some awesome videos online of unassuming looking people performing awesome acts of functional strength. I’ve embedded the YouTube clips below. Enjoy! I feel a functional strength rabbit hole sneaking up on me…
Awesome Chair Strength Demo
Awesome rock/wall climber strength examples and training
I recently found another functional workout tactic that I’ve become obsessed with learning more about: The Bulgarian Bag. I came across an example of a Bulgarian Bag Workout that looks brutal, by YouTube searching Andre Galvao’s training methods.
The video I found on Youtube – Stephen Nave
Please write in the comments if you’ve ever done a Bulgarian Bag Workout, and how it worked for you. (The picture and the link above sends you to Amazon if you’re looking to purchase.)
If you are looking for a quick and easy way to track your fitness progress, please sign up for my mailing list, and I will send you a FREE Quantified Self Worksheet. The worksheet will be in Excel format and will allow you to plug in information about yourself to generate your present fitness standing.
Sign up below, and I will personally email you the Free Quantified Self: Excel Workbook Attachment:
Pull Up Attachments – again, adding variation to your pull-ups can have massive effect on your grip strength. Check out how to make your own pull up balls or pull up nun chucks. Or do pull ups with a towel draped over the bar and one positioned for each hand.
Use Oversized Grips – When performing other barbell based workouts, choose the largest diameter bar possible, or add a bar widener – product listed below.
Interesting Equipment to Increase Your Deadlift Max: