Warm ups for female athletes
The exercises below are key to helping young women in sport to prevent knee injuries, specifically an ACL injury.
The glutes are the number one most important muscle group to control our knee and an important area to strengthen for young women to prevent these injuries, says Jacinta Horan, specialist sports physiotherapist for High Performance Sport NZ, and member of WHISPA.
Paying closer attention to these exercises will help strengthen and stabilise the knee.
Doing the ACC SportSmart warm up at least twice a week during pre-season and maintaining this during the season can help reduce injuries by around 30%.
Find out more about young women in sport and why an ACL injury can be career-changing.
You can find how to do these exercises and all ACC SportSmart exercises in the warm up guide, or by watching the videos.
Running, shoulder contact
Warming up the leg muscles is a great way to prepare for jumping and landing.
Tips: Don’t let your knees buckle inwards and don’t land with your torso falling forward. Make sure hips and knees are bent to ensure a soft landing.
This exercise helps strengthen your rear thigh muscles and is vital for stabilising your knees.
Tips: Don’t bend at the hips and keep the back straight. The movement should only be at the knee joints.
Squats help improve movement control during jumping, landing and stopping. This exercise strengthens your hamstrings and calf muscles, and improves movement control.
Tips: Don’t let your knees buckle – the hip, knee, and foot on both legs should be straight.
Keep your back and head straight
Additions: Add a toe raise and body extension after your squat – when your knees are completely straight, stand up on your toes and extend arms above your head.
Squats walking lunges
By strengthening your hamstrings and gluteal muscles, your movement control improves. This also prepares the body for stopping.
Tips: Stay tall, bend down not forward. Don’t let your knees buckle, don’t tilt your torso forward, and don’t twist or tilt your pelvis to the side.
Additions: Add a calf raise or calf raise and body extension after the lunge.
Single leg squats improve movement control of single leg activities such as changing direction, landing and stopping. They strengthen your front thigh muscles.
Tips: Knee control is crucial. Hip, knee and foot should be kept straight – don't buckle the knee. Bend your knee slowly but straighten slightly quicker. Keep your back straight. Make sure your pelvis doesn’t twist or tilt to the side.
This exercise improves your jumping power and movement control on landing.
Tips: Keep hip, knees, and feet straight – try not to buckle the knee. Jump off both feet and land on the balls of your feet. A cushioned landing and powerful take off are more important than how high you jump. When you land, bend your knees again and try not to land forward on your toes.
Additions: Try adding 90, 180, and 270 degree turns. Adding a turn to a vertical jump will improve movement control on landing. Remember to turn in the air, using your core to control the turn.
This exercise improves your jumping power and movement control on one leg.
Tips: Keep your hip, knee and foot in a straight line. When landing, land on the ball of your foot and bend your hips, knee and ankle. Don’t let the knee buckle inwards.