Exercise For Limited Mobility – Road to Recovery Workout Series

Exercise For Limited Mobility – Road to Recovery Workout Series

Has a surgery sidelined you from your usual sweat sessions? Or maybe a bout of bed rest has made you interested in fitness! Unfortunately, many patients experience some unfavorable side effects during the course of their surgery recovery, including weight gain and muscle atrophy. Both of these post-op problems can lead to more serious issues down the road, so what better way to hedge your bet than with a little sweat!

Whether your procedure has you rocking an upper-body cast or scooting along with crutches or a wheelchair, an exercise plan for Limited Mobility is beneficial for both your mental and physical well-being.

Today, we’ll lay out three complete workouts:

  • An Upper Body workout for lower body impairment
  • A Lower Body workout for an upper-body impairment
  • A low-impact, full-body Aquatic workout once you’ve gotten the green light from your physician to include more advanced activity.

It’s important to consult with your doctor before jumping in since each program provides general movements for each body section. While the exercises are safe if performed correctly, they have not been tailored to your specific injury and mobility impairments. So use caution, progress slowly, and most importantly, have fun! These workouts are designed to challenge you while giving you a hefty dose of those feel-good fitness endorphins! 

Upper-Body Workout

Seated Shoulder Press

Video Source: https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/dumbbell-shoulder-press
  • Strengthening for: Shoulders
  • Repetitions: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    While seated comfortably in a chair or on an exercise bench, holding one dumbbell in each hand.

    Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height with your palms facing forward. This is your starting position.

    Push the dumbbells upward until they touch overhead.

    Then slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position.

Bench Press

Video Source: bodybuilding.com/exercises/dumbbell-bench-press
  • Strengthening for: Chest
  • Repetitions: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To:
    Lie down on an exercise bench or on the floor using a yoga mat or towel. Take one dumbbell in each hand. 

    Rotate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you. Then bring the dumbbells to the sides of your chest, with your upper arm and forearm forming a 90-degree angle. This will be your starting position.

    Then push the dumbbells up above your face, locking your arms at the top. Hold for a second and then bring weights back down slowly. 

Seated Bicep Hammer Curl

Video Source: https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/hammer-curls
  • Strengthening for: Biceps/Forearms
  • Repetitions: 12-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To:
    From a seated position in a chair or on an exercise bench, start with one dumbbell in each hand while arms hang by your side. 

    The palms of your hands should be facing your torso. This will be your starting position.

    While holding your upper arms stationary, curl the dumbbells forward while contracting your biceps. Raise the weight until the biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbell is at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a moment as you squeeze the biceps.

    After the brief pause, slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.

Seated Overhead Tricep Extension 

Video Source: https://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/arm-exercises/videos/seated-dumbbell-overhead-triceps-extension
  • Strengthening for: Tricep
  • Repetitions: 12-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To:
    While seated, take a single dumbbell and grasp the weight with both hands at one end.

    Then, elevate the dumbbell overhead until your arms are fully extended. Keep your elbows in. This will be your starting position.

    Keeping your upper arms close to your head and elbows pinned in, lower the dumbbell slowly behind your head until your forearms touch your biceps. 

    Return to starting position by using the triceps to raise the barbell back overhead. 

Seated Dumbbell Row

Video Source: https://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/shoulder-exercises/videos/seated-dumbbell-row
  • Strengthening for: Upper Back
  • Repetitions: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    Begin seated with your torso positioned in a forward tilt. Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Ensure that your back is straight throughout the exercise. Allow your arms to hang perpendicular to the floor, with the elbows pointed to your sides. This will be your starting position.

    Initiate the movement by rowing the dumbbells toward your torso. 

    Continue the row until the elbows are inside of 90 degrees, contracting your shoulders as you pause at the top.

    Return to the starting position, making sure that you maintain proper spinal positioning. 

Lower Body Workout

Bodyweight Lunge

Video Source: https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/bodyweight-lunge
  • Strengthening for: Quadriceps  
  • Repetitions: 15-20
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    Stand with your feet hip-width apart, maintaining the natural curvature of your spine. Your knees should be unlocked. This is your starting position.

    Take a moderate-length step forward with one foot, descending to a point where your back knee approaches the floor without touching, while maintaining an upright posture. Your front knee should create a 90-degree angle.

    From the bottom position, push back up from your forward foot, bringing it back beside the other.

    Repeat on the opposite side.

Bodyweight Side Lunge

Video Source: https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/side-lunge
  • Strengthening for: Outer Thigh
  • Repetitions: 15-20
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To:
    From a standing position, with feet shoulder-width apart,  take a slow, lateral step to the right. Keep your toes pointed forward and stay low. Extend the left knee, driving your weight to the right, flexing the knee and hip into a side lunge. Maintain good posture through the entire spine, keeping your head and chest up.

    Pause at the bottom of the motion, and then extend through the working leg to return to a standing position, transitioning into a lunge to the opposite side.

Bodyweight Squat

Video Source: https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/bodyweight-squat
  • Strengthening for: Quadriceps/Hamstrings
  • Repetitions: 15-20
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. This will be your starting position.

    Begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips.

    Continue down to full depth and reverse the motion until you return to the starting position. As you squat, keep your head and chest up and push your knees out.

Standing Donkey Kick (demonstrated from the floor position in the link)

Video Source: https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/glute-kickback
  • Strengthening for: Glutes
  • Repetitions: 15-20
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To:
    If possible, we recommend performing this exercise while stabilizing yourself by placing one or both hands against a wall. If this is not possible, limit the forward lean of your upper body/torso to prevent potential falls. 

    To begin, come to a standing position with a slight forward lean of your upper torso. Lift one leg behind you and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. Contract glute muscle as you raise your bent knee. Return knee to meet the other at the starting position. 

    Complete all repetitions on one side before moving to the other.

Standing Bodyweight Calf Raise (demonstrated with exercise machine in the link)

Video Source: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/bodyweight-standing-calf-raise.html
  • Strengthening for: Calves
  • Repetitions: 20-25
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    Begin in a comfortable standing position, feet positioned hip-width distance apart. The knees should be kept with a slight bend; never locked. Toes should be facing forward.

    Raise your heels by extending your ankles as high as possible and flexing your calf. Ensure that the knee is kept stationary at all times. There should be no bending at any time. Hold the contracted position by a second before bringing your heels back to the floor.

    Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Aquatic Full Body Workout

Water Walking/Jogging Intervals

  • Strengthening for: Your Heart! This is great cardiovascular training
  • Repetitions: 30-second intervals
  • Sets: 15-minute cardio workout with 15 sets of intervals (30 seconds of walking & 30 seconds of jogging)
  • How To: 
    Start with forward and backward walking in chest or waist-high water as a warm-up.

    Begin the workout with 30 seconds of slow marching in place. 

    After 30 seconds, increase your tempo, mimicking a jogging movement pattern. This will spike your heart rate.

    Alternate jogging for 30 seconds with walking in place for 30 seconds. Continue for 15 minutes.

Knee to Chest Lifts

  • Strengthening for: Hips/Abdominals
  • Repetitions: 20-25
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    While standing on one leg with a slight bend, extend one leg in front while one hand holds onto the side of the pool. This should form a 45-degree angle with the standing leg.

    Pull the outstretched leg into the chest. Return to the extended position and repeat for the total number of repetitions.

    Repeat on the other side.

Wall Supported Kicks (flutter and butterfly)

  • Strengthening for: Legs/Abdominals/Cardiovascular
  • Repetitions: 30-seconds
  • Sets: 5-10
  • How To: 
    Grasp onto the pool deck and assume a “Superman” position with hands resting on side of the pool and the body and legs outstretched into and supported by water. 

    Perform 30-seconds of flutter kicking, followed by 30-seconds of rest.

    Repeat this pattern with butterfly kicking, which is performed with both legs moving in unison (think of a mermaid tail).

Lateral Leg Lift

  • Strengthening for: Outer/Inner Thighs
  • Repetitions: 10-12
  • Sets: 3-4
  • How To: 
    Stand with one hand grasping the side of the pool deck for balance, knees relaxed. Stand so that one leg faces the pool wall laterally, while the other is able to extend laterally towards the open pool. Swing outer leg toward the center of the pool and back to midline. 

    Repeat all repetitions before moving to the other side.

Lap Swimming

  • Strengthening for: Full-Body Exercise
  • Repetitions: One lap making your way from one side of the pool and back again.
  • Sets: Aim 8-10, taking rest as needed
  • How To: 
    Complete 8-10 laps of swimming, performing whatever stroke you are most comfortable with (we suggest breaststroke or freestyle for most patients).

    Possible variations: If you have not regained total upper-body mobility, you can place use a kickboard and perform this exercise as a kicking movement.

    If your lower body mobility is limited, you can place a pool buoy between your thighs and perform this exercise as a pulling workout.

Again, remember to keep your sweat-sesh safe! When performing any exercise, please respect your physical limits. The last thing you’d want to do is prolong your recovery process, or worse, add a new injury to the mix. Ask your doctor if these exercises are safe for you, and if given the go-ahead, let’s get moving!