Upper-body cardio for leg-prohibitive injuries?
January 6, 2014 6:22 PM   Subscribe

I've been diagnosed with acute prepatellar bursitis in my left leg after a bicycle accident. My doctor has ordered me off of leg-based cardio for the next month. What are my alternatives for upper-body-exclusive cardio?

My gym has an arm bike, which I plan on using, and I intend to continue with my regular upper-body strengh training, but I'm wondering how many other interesting varieties of cardio are out there.

To be extra-clear, I'm not supposed to walk long distances, engage in any repetitive motion on that leg (bending, flexing), or anything of the sort. He wants me off the leg as much as possible.
posted by mykescipark to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have access to a pool? There are a number of strokes that can be done with minimal leg movement.
posted by macfly at 6:40 PM on January 6, 2014

Seconding a pool, with a pull buoy.
posted by charmedimsure at 6:48 PM on January 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

i found working out with nun chucks to be a good upper body cardio.
posted by lester at 6:50 PM on January 6, 2014

Can you use your leg if it's not bent and lightly weighted? If so you could put together some upper body/core exercises that can be cardio intensive if you do them fast. For me pushups are cardio if I go fast. Maybe a circuit that combines kipping pull ups, pushups, plank walk ups (get in a pushup position, go down on your elbows one at a time, go back up on your hands, repeat), renegade rows (get in a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand, alternate lifting each dumbbell to your chest), floor presses (lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand, alternate pressing each dumbbell up), and the first half of a Turkish get up.

If you can find an airdyne you could try it with just the arms, but I've found that it's hard to elevate my heart rate with pure arm exercises that don't involve other muscles (like using your core in a pushup). Personally I found those arm bicycles useless. Some gyms have kayaking-simulator machines that work better because you use your stomach and back.

Could you get a wheelchair? (When I was injured I learned that a local Elks club lent out rehab equipment like chairs for free.) If you're not used to it, wheeling yourself around is serious work. Ditto using crutches, especially on stairs.
posted by medusa at 7:17 PM on January 6, 2014

If you can hinge at the hips and engage your core, you should be able to come up with a modified seated rowing exercise with resistance bands that works for you. Crutches are also a workout, but I personally would never do stairs on crutches just for exercise due to risk of falling.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:23 PM on January 6, 2014

If you have access to a rowing machine, you can do arms-only or one-legged rowing. Depending on where you are, perhaps kayaking or canoeing is an option?

I also nth that swimming with a pull buoy would be great.
posted by ktkt at 9:11 PM on January 6, 2014

If you have access to a heavy bag and know/are willing to learn how to throw a proper punch, a few rounds can make for some pretty gruelling cardio.
posted by Broseph at 11:22 PM on January 6, 2014

Couplets and triplets of upper-body strength exercises make for brutal upper-body cardio.

I like dips / pull-ups / rest, using sets of 1/3 to 1/2 of my max reps and rests of up to a minute. Bench press / row with a dumbbell is also good. Push-ups and TRX or ring rows mix well with lots of other stuff. I also imagine that you could make up a few triplets using the arm bike as active rest between rounds of strength exercises, e.g. arm bike easy for 1 minute, sprint for 30 seconds, 2 chin-ups, 5 dips, repeat five times.
posted by daveliepmann at 3:43 AM on January 7, 2014

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