A Workout Plan With a Broken Foot

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Focus on upper body exercises when you have a broken foot.
Image Credit: alvarez/E+/GettyImages

A broken foot doesn't have to sideline your workout, although you might have to change up your routine until your injury heals.


Take advantage of the opportunity to check out some workout equipment you might not have tried otherwise. Check with your doctor before strength training or doing aerobic exercises with a broken foot to make sure these activities are safe for you as your foot is healing.

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1. Cardio With a Broken Foot

With some creativity, you can still do cardio with a broken foot.

Move 1:‌ ‌Upper-Body Ergometer

While there are a host of cardio exercise options, the majority of them require use of your legs. However, one option is the upper-body ergometer, which instead entails "cycling" with your arms. Typically, these machines have an adjustable amount of resistance. With less resistance, you can cycle faster to produce a cardio response similar to running sprints, giving you an effective aerobic exercise with a broken foot.


You can also increase the amount of resistance to make your arm muscles work harder. Pedaling forward on the arm bike works your triceps, which straighten your elbows. Pedaling backward targets your pulling muscles, including your biceps.

Move 2:‌ ‌Battle Ropes

While a couple of ropes might not seem that impressive, they can provide a full-body workout, according to the American Council on Exercise. Perform these upper extremity exercises as part of your cardio with a foot injury.


Do these exercises in a seated position. Even if you are allowed to put weight on your broken foot, battle ropes can throw off your balance and increase your risk of further injury.

Battle rope exercises can include:

  • Alternating waves:‌ Use an up and down motion with each arm moving in the opposite direction.

  • Double arm waves:‌ Use an up and down motion with both arms moving the same direction.

  • Snakes‌‌:‌ Move the ropes side to side at the same time.

  • Claps: Move

    the ropes apart and bring them together.

  • Circles: Rotate the ropes clockwise and counterclockwise together, or rotate them inward in an alternating movement pattern.



Move 3: Swimming

Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor might allow you to include include swimming in your aerobic exercise with a broken foot. You can hold a pull buoy between your thighs to keep your legs floating while you propel your body through the water, using your arms — eliminating any stress on your foot.

If you are allowed to bear some weight on your foot, water walking or low-impact water aerobics might also be feasible options.


2. Build Some Muscle

Take advantage of this time off your feet to focus on building upper body strength, using a variety of exercises, as presented by ExRx.net.

Move 1: Dumbbell Exercises

Perform seated or lying dumbbell exercises such as:


  • Biceps curls
  • Overhead triceps extensions
  • Front raises
  • Lateral raises
  • Chest presses

Move 2:‌ ‌Body-Weight Exercises

Use your own body weight to strengthen your arms with exercises such as:

  • Triceps bench dips
  • Kneeling push-ups (to avoid pressure on your broken foot)
  • Pull-ups
  • Inverted rows


Move 3: Circuit Training

Many gyms have strength training machines set up in a circuit, making it convenient to move from one exercise to another. Perform 10 repetitions of each of the following exercises, and complete the circuit three times:


  • Chest press
  • Seated row
  • Military/overhead press
  • Lat pull-down
  • Biceps curl
  • Triceps push-down

3. Concentrate on Your Core

A host of core-strengthening exercises can be performed without putting extra pressure on your broken foot. Princeton University Athletic Medicine recommends performing 10 to 20 repetitions of each of these exercises.

Move 1:‌ ‌Abdominal Draw-In

  1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. If needed, prop your injured foot on a pillow instead.
  2. Place your hand on your hips.
  3. Tighten your abs as if you are pulling your belly button back toward your spine. You should feel the muscles under your fingertips tighten.
  4. Hold for two to three seconds while continuing to breathe normally, then relax.

Progress the abdominal draw-in exercise by adding some arm or leg movements while maintaining tight abs:

  • Lift one arm overhead, then lower it back down, alternating sides.
  • Lift both arms overhead at the same time.
  • Slowly allow your knees to drop out to the sides, then bring them back together.

Move 2:‌ ‌Quadruped Stability

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees with your wrists in line with your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  2. Perform an abdominal draw-in and maintain this position throughout the exercise.
  3. Lift one arm straight out in front of you, without allowing your back to move.
  4. Hold for two to three seconds, then lower it back down. Repeat on the opposite arm, alternating sides with each repetition.
  5. Repeat this exercise, but lift one leg straight out behind you. Alternate sides with each repetition.


Make this exercise harder by lifting the opposite arm and leg at the same time.

4. Don't Ignore Your Legs

Just because you have a broken foot, it doesn't mean you can't do any leg exercises.

Move 1:‌ ‌Seated Knee Extension

The seated knee extension targets your quads without putting pressure on your broken foot. The knee extension machine has a padded bar that rests across the shins to lift a weight stack as you straighten your knees.

Move 2:‌ ‌Seated Hamstring Curls

The seated hamstring curl machine is similar to the knee extension machine, except your legs start out in a straight position. A padded bar behind your calves lifts a weight stack as you bend your knees.

Move 3:‌ ‌Four-Way Hip Exercise

The four-way hip exercise is often performed using a lever machine with a padded bar that can be positioned to work your hip in four directions — forward, backward, inward and outward. However, this exercise can also be performed lying down while your broken foot is healing.

  1. Lie on your back with one knee bent. Keeping the other knee straight, lift your leg straight up toward the ceiling. You should feel muscles tighten at the front of your thigh.
  2. Lie on one side with your bottom knee bent. Keeping your top leg straight, lift it up to your side as far as possible. This position strengthens muscles on the outside of your hip.
  3. Lie on your stomach. Keeping your knee straight, squeeze your glutes and lift your leg straight up off the ground.
  4. Lie on the side you are exercising. Bend the top knee and place your foot on the ground behind your opposite knee.
  5. Keeping your bottom leg straight, lift it up toward the ceiling. This will target muscles in your inner thigh.

Make this exercise harder by adding ankle weights.




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