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radenska 05-11-2010 12:15 AM

Cardio that doesn't involve legs?
Hi all,

I am looking for a cardio activity that does not involve the legs. I have an achilles injury and even low impact activities such as swimming hurt.

I tried the hand bike at the gym but even the lowest resistance is too high for me to get my heart rate up sufficiently.

Does anyone have any suggestions for cardio exercise that doesn't involve the legs? I have access to a well-stocked gym.


cjohnson728 05-11-2010 02:08 AM

Off the top of my head, I would say doing upper body boxing moves, particularly with light weights in your hands, might work.

This was talked about months back and someone knew of a website that addressed this. I can't remember it but if you Googled something like "sit and be fit," I bet you could find it.

MichelleKoren 05-11-2010 07:54 PM

oooh oooh, I can help with this!! :) Boxing, punching. For instance. Stand (I'm guessing u can even sit given u have enough room) in a slight squat. Do punches in the air, making sure to twist at the waist for added ab work. Types of punches can be straight punches, undercuts, round punches. If u want to add strength to it. Do same with 3 lb (5 lbs are a bit much for me) hand weights.

Another exercise would be to slightly squat, feet wide again (somewhat horse stance) hold light weights in hands, arms are outstretched to the side and twist as fast as u can. You can alternate slow and fast to last longer, like interval training. It can be done sitting, as well, but needing PLENTY of room for the rotation. I'll have to think about some more.

Can u not bear weight on your feet much at all? I'm thinking of standing still, but kickboxing in the air, i.e. 25 front kicks on each leg, 25 roundhouse kicks each leg, etc. (we do these in our warm up at kung fu, it is definitely cardio). You would need to be able to stand on one foot for stabilization, kicking foot lands after each kick.

Hope that helps.

MichelleKoren 05-11-2010 07:58 PM

Oops, didn't see your post Cjohnson :) But exactly.

veixsus 05-11-2010 10:27 PM

Boxing/punching bag or rowing machine with stationary lower body. I know you already mentioned that even swimming was too stressful for you, but you can put a buoy between your legs so that you'll float and won't kick... then you're using only your arms to propel yourself. It's still a great workout and should take the stress off your injury.

almeeker 05-11-2010 11:25 PM

Get your crutches out and go for a walk around the block, or the track, and when I say "walk" I really mean hobble your booty around as fast as you can go. I spent a good part of my young adulthood on and off crutches and I had the upper body to prove it. I could actually go faster walking on crutches then on 2 legs for a while. The other thing I would suggest is to set a bench press (or any arm machine) to a lower weight than you normally lift and then do rapid sets for 3-4 minutes straight. Believe me you can work up a sweat and bring your heart rate right up as well. You might also consider a rowing machine, or a row boat for that matter. It's a great upper body + cardio workout. A chin-up bar can also make for a really good workout, although you'd have to be careful to not hold your breath.

NessaSonic 05-12-2010 12:43 AM

do you know anyone you could borrow a wheelchair from? Or maybe rent one? I bet that would be an AMAZING workout for your arms and cardiovascular system. Just thought I'd throw on odd one out there just in case.

almeeker 05-12-2010 10:43 AM

The last time I needed a wheelchair I borrowed one from the VFW. Apparently many VFW posts keep a barn full of ambulatory equipment, and the local one here will let you borrow it for free. So call your local vets and see if they have a such a program or know of one.

radenska 05-12-2010 09:58 PM

Thanks all for the suggestions!

I do actually have a rowboat that I take out on occasion, but it just doesn't raise my heart rate that much (e.g., same problem as the handbike - my arm muscles just don't allow me to go fast enough for my heart to be challenged at all).

I have been playing with my chin-up bar - fun times. I think as I develop a stronger upper body I can do stuff like chin-ups and push-ups as aerobic exercise but as is, I have to stop and rest my muscles between sets.

I have been thinking about a punching bag, but I like the weights in the hand idea better - don't need gear I don't have - I'll try that!

I'm not actually on crutches, so no hobbling around the block for me. I can walk for a little bit without pain but not fast enough to get the heart really going.

I will have to go back to the pool and see what I can do. I remember reading somewhere that with an achilles injury you can "jog" in the deep end with a life jacket on. I might have to try that. If that doesn't work, I guess the float it is.

bland3371 05-13-2010 08:16 AM


I’m not sure how high you are trying to get your heart rate or for how long, but the back stroke or a side stroke swimming style would allow you to get a work out with minimum movement of your legs.
Other options are:
Using either light amount of weights or bands to work your upper body and/or mid-section with the goal of doing a large amount of quick repetitions repetition vice heavy weights.
If you don’t like weights at all there is an exercise that I learn a few years ago called “POWs”. You start sitting on the ground on your knees (kind-a looks the same as when police arrest people) with your arms either in the push up position of start above your head, 1 count is bringing your hands into your chest or even with your shoulders then fully extending them out again in rapid succession. Once you have completed 10 of these you move to the push up position, you may want modify it to meet you comfort level and do 10 push up again in quick succession. Once you complete 10 of each start back over again, this time doing 9 of each then 8 and so on. This might not be a fun exercise to do but it is low impact, doesn’t require a lot of upper body strength and will get your heart rate up. Which is what I’m thinking your goal is until you can get back to your normal workout.

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