T Nation


Hello everyone. I would appreciate some feedback on my particular issue. I am 51 yrs old and have worked out on and off most of my life. My weight is in proportion with my hight. I road bike and inline skate regularly. Problem is I have a severed ACL. It cause practically no problem with skating or biking, but I plan to get a smith machine and start doing squats as part of my weigh-lifting routine. Should I make the investment or is the severed ACL the type of injury that prohibits 1/2 and full squat work? Thanks for any help I can get. R. F.

Why don’t you just have surgery? I recently tore my acl, had surgery, and am now able to do almost everything I did before the injury.

I would avoid the smith machine for squats, especially in the face of a knee injury. Smith machine squats cause shearing force at the knee which is likely to aggravate your condition (the lower leg is pushed forward while the upper leg is pushed backwards). Regular free standing barbell squats do not have this same shearing force and will do much more to strengthen your knee without placing undue stress at the joint. You don’t have to start heavy and they should be safe throughout the whole range of motion, but I can’t know for sure because I’m not working directly with you.

I would also suggest receiving some form of medical treatment to fix the problem or at least talking to a real good orthopedist or at least a physical therapist.

R. Flores, I totally severed my ACL when I was 19. I went for a year before I bothered to get it checked out, and managed to roast the cartilage in my knee during that year. I understand that you can live without an ACL, but my question is – why would you want to? Don’t you miss lateral stuff (basketball football, raquetball, tennis, jumping, etc.)? I hated the feeling of never knowing when my knee was going to pop out, or my knee was going to be too loose to function. The surgery is a pain in the ass, I won’t lie to you, but having a fully functioning knee again was well worth the pain.

As I understand it, people who opt to not have the surgery but want to remain physically active (out of a swimming pool) have to pay special attention to strengthening the hamstring. This is one of the main supporting muscle groups that helps support the fuction of the ACL, and without this ligament you really need to have powerful hamstrings (I have a torched left hamstring, which ended up being a contriubting factor to some of my different ACL injuries). The general consensus about Smith Machine squats is that the exercise places too much shearing stress on your knee at the bottom of the movement. I don’t know if there is any evidence to back that up, but they make my knees very uncomfortable with anything over a couple of hundred pounds. I much prefer free weight squats, and to tell you the truth, I give most of the credit for my knee rehabilitation (after surgery) to ultra-strict high bar squats.

I would just like you to know that 51 is not too old to get this fixed. I would hazard that well over half of my physical therapy group was over 40 and recovering just fine from their reconstructions. It takes hard work and a ton of patience to rehab, but it sounds like you are already putting in the effort to take care of yourself. Why not widen your fitness opportunities by having your ACL repaired?

I think that free weights would be more benifical, because of the greater range of motion, but i could be wrong maybe you shouyld ask a phycial therapist.
good luck

I agree with Jason. I’ve lifted with a torn ACL and normal squats did not aggrevate it. Smith machine would not be a good idea though.
As far as the surgery goes, I would say don’t get it if you don’t feel you need it for the activities you do. The reason I say this is that there can be complications with the surgery- any of them, and even with the best doctors.
If you have to get it, I would suggest the patellar tendon or allograft. Don’t even think about hamstring or quad- these are inferior. Personally if i had to do it over, I would use the allograft, because it is the least invasive. Make sure you go to a doctor who is very experienced.
Good luck.

I’ve had 2 ACL tears in the same knee(now I’m sporting a cadaver’s ACL), along w/a shitload of meniscus repair and removal. GET THE DAMN SURGERY! Honestly, recovering from ACL surgery is cake, just be smart and rehab well. DON’T USE THE SMITH MACHINE, the forces put on the knee are the worst for it, stick w/squats and deads, not leg extensions.