March 23, 2009 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Please help me develop a one-legged workout.

Last Wednesday, I broke my ankle - a distal fibula fracture. The doctor instructed me to not put any weight on the foot, to elevate it as often as possible and to avoid moving it in any way.

All good advice, but it does present a problem. Over the last year or so, I'd finally developed a workout routine that worked for me - lots of standing dumbbell and resistance band exercises, push-ups and situps, jump rope for cardio and lots of walking and biking. In short, all stuff that requires two working feet - a feature I won't have for about two months.

Thing is, I need my workouts - they keep my anxiety and depression at bay better than anything I've ever tried. I don't want to lose my fitness progress, either - this weight was goddamn hard to lose. But this injury has put just about my whole routine out of reach. Even sitting down for some concentration curls exerts forces on the bracing leg.

So, what do you think? I've accepted that I'm not likely to maintain the same level of intensity during my convalescence, but I don't want to become completely sedentary. How can I work out as much of my body as possible without moving my right leg or putting any weight on it?
posted by EatTheWeek to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you in a cast or just a brace of some kind? If not, have you considered swimming? You won't be able to do the hardcore laps that require use of your ankles, but there are lots of resistance exercises you can do in water. You can do a reasonable workout in the pool, even if you're not using one of your legs, especially with your upper body. Also, getting in the water makes it less likely that you'll accidentally put a high amount of weight on that injured ankle. Obviously, a large cast would make this impossible. Of course, defer to your doctor's recommendations. He or she may be a good person to ask this question to ask well!
posted by theantikitty at 11:16 AM on March 23, 2009

Have you seen the new 200 sit ups program, started by the same people at 100 push ups? It might be an interesting interim goal for you.
posted by bristolcat at 11:24 AM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, I forgot to mention - yes, right now I'm in one of those removable braces, but am likely to wind up in a cast after my next visit to the doctor.
posted by EatTheWeek at 11:44 AM on March 23, 2009

Do you have a bench, or access to one? Perhaps some dumbbell flies on a bench, then flip over and do some dumbbell rows. Then there's the standard dumbbell bench press.

These exercises shouldn't put too much pressure on your ankles since you're using the bench as support, and you're hitting some of your core. However, they might conflict with your doctor's advice to not move your injury in any way.
posted by CancerMan at 11:44 AM on March 23, 2009

posted by gramcracker at 11:45 AM on March 23, 2009

You can do a lot of upper body weight-lifting sitting down. With dumbbells, you can do concentration curls for biceps, shoulder presses, tricep presses, etc. If you belong to a gym, you'll see that a LOT of the machines are seated.

And, although you'll wind up a bit lopsided, I don't see why you can't work on one-legged pushups! Just hold the bad leg out behind you -- this would be AWESOME for core strength. Actually, for the side with the broken ankle, you could do one-legged pushups on your knee (you know, "girlie pushups", but only on one knee -- your ankle would be in the air). That would help cancel out the lopsidedness....

Actually, if you belong to a gym, you should get a session with a trainer, to help you design something.

Best of luck -- I had a nasty sprained ankle once, and know the frustration....
posted by kestrel251 at 11:49 AM on March 23, 2009

This is an excellent question for a physical therapist or physiologist. You need to talk with a clinician about this so you do not end up compromising your "good foot." I've had two foot surgeries (one on each) that laid me up for about 8 weeks, including no driving, so I feel your pain.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:39 PM on March 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you, FergieBelle - I hadn't considered that.
posted by EatTheWeek at 3:00 PM on March 23, 2009

- Body rows with your legs elevated
- Pull-ups
- Barbell rows (if you can stand with the weight)
- Knee push-ups (elevate your knees to make them harder, do them with your hands on paralletes, chairs, or rings for extra range of motion)
- Handstand push-ups (put your knees on something to make them easier)
- L-sits
- Dips
- Gymnastics ring work (check out and for ideas)
- Kneeling cable crunches
- Tornadoes
- Medicine ball core work while seated or kneeling
- Rifle crawls (pulling yourself across the floor by your arms)
- Bench press
- Seated military press
- Pistols with your good leg
- Sit ups where you throw a medicine ball against the wall and catch it when it bounces back
- One-legged rowing on the rowing machine (it's harder, but possible)
- Shrimping (as in jujitsu shrimping)

There are tons, tons more.

For seated work, if putting your foot on the floor hurts then prop it up on a bench. Your weights won't be as high but you'll be able to lift.

Many of the bodyweight exercises--push-ups, pull-ups, body rows, etc--have infinite variations, and the possibility to do them plyometrically. Like, you can clap at the top of the push-up. If the exercise is too hard, like doing a pistol or handstand push-up, then look up assisted/scaled versions of the exercises to help you work up to the full version. The Crossfit exercise list has a lot of them as well as scaling, so does YouTube.

Think of this as an opportunity to develop serious core, upper-body, and hip strength!
posted by Anonymous at 6:50 PM on March 23, 2009

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