I have a knee injury, so I cannot do things like running, cycling, jumping, or virtually anything else that puts pressure on the legs.

What are good upper-body exercises that I could use to burn fat?

  • What do you currently do for your upper body workout? Sep 21, 2013 at 12:57
  • 1
    Usual weight training for the arms, chest, shoulders, back.
    – user6022
    Sep 21, 2013 at 21:32

4 Answers 4


Shadow boxing, or punching a bag would work. You've just got to be willing to punch at a pretty high frequency for long periods of time.

If your goal is just fat burning and you have an injury though, it might just be a good opportunity to eat a lot less and let your body burn the fat.


The late Dr. Leonard Schwartz's Heavyhands program dealt specifically with how the upper body and most specifically the arms were able to boost aerobic performance by taking some of the strain off the legs, ankles, and feet. As a matter of fact he developed because he was a runner and incurred a leg injury. It was huge in the 80's and still has plenty of devoted followers to this day. His book Heavyhands as well as some of the associated DVD's are available from used book sellers. There is also plenty of information about Heavyhands that is available via free search via your choice of search engine.


Unfortunately, it is harder to burn more calories and gain aerobic fitness just from using your upper body simply because you are missing out on using the legs in the activity. But here are some suggestions that may or may not depending on your condition:

Rowing machine without moving your knees

Elliptical with no incline

Arm ergometer

FYI, any activity burns fat



Make a pair or set of upper-body exercises you can do, and do those with no rest between them and little or no rest between rounds. Use bodyweight exercises as well as resistance tools like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. For example:

  • Alternate sets of dips and push-ups, with 0 to 90 seconds rest between rounds (pick a given rest period before you start). Each set should be a specific number between one-quarter and three-quarters of your comfortable one-set maximum. So if I can do 20 dips in a go, and I can do 12 pull-ups in a go, I might do 10 dips and 7 pull-ups each round, resting for one minute between rounds, for five rounds. That is very tiring.
  • With a moderately heavy dumbbell (or barbell, or kettlebell), do every exercise you can think of for five to ten minutes without stopping. If you can use your knee a little, then swings, push presses, cleans, and snatches would be useful. If not, stick to things like curls, bench presses, shrugs, overhead presses, bent-over rows, renegade rows, and front and lateral raises.

This approach of pairing or mixing can be extended to include any exercise you are capable of doing. For instance, I recently did 4 rounds of 10 one-arm dumbbell bench press and 10 one-arm dumbbell row. One can mix weights with bodyweight, as well: push-ups and bent-over rows, for example.

What makes this so cardio-intensive? Short rests, using a moderate weight (or moderately difficult exercise), using the time spent doing one exercise to rest the muscles used in the other exercise, and doing several rounds. If you have those elements, you can get quite sweaty and out of breath with simple pairings.

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