I am a right leg amputee. I am trying to lose weight. With success. But I want to vary my workouts. Right now I do the following: Long Walks (with crutches or my 15 lb artificial leg); Sit-ups; Using a machine akin to a rower (push with leg, pull with arms, move butt)

What other exercises provide a good workout with out the need for a second leg?

  • 7
    Swimming comes to mind, because you don't 'need' your legs for it and its a great arm exercise.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jul 8, 2011 at 5:39
  • For a strength exercise, you could look into pistols (aka one-legged squats).
    – VPeric
    Jul 8, 2011 at 8:46
  • Looking at the picture it looks like in pistols the other leg is used for balance. I think I would fall
    – Kevin
    Jul 8, 2011 at 15:31
  • 1
    You can also hold out a weight to keep balance, or hold on to something while you are doing it. (pistols are hard, most people need assistance)
    – michael
    Jul 8, 2011 at 17:36
  • What about jump roping? That seems like it would do alot! It's great exercise, and if you can do it will probably also improve your balance.
    – moesef
    Mar 21, 2012 at 20:58

8 Answers 8


Not knowing your age, fitness level and type of amputation, I'll just recommend you some exercises that don't really depend on those factors.


As a swimmer with relatively poor leg technique I can assure you, you can swim perfectly fine without legs. Technically speaking you should even float easier, due to the reduced average density of your body, so if you know how to swim, you should be pretty safe. Furthermore, you can get swimming aids which should even allow you to scuba dive.

swimming aid for amputees

Either way, swimming is a great exercise for both the core, your lungs and your arms. Obviously the arm training should benefit you when you go walking with crutches and any other situation where you use your arm to support yourself. Sticking with freestyle and backstroke is probably the safest, though I have no experience with how well turning goes, but I'm sure you'll manage.

Hand biking

hand bike

Granted, you'd have to buy a special bike for it, but it does make your more mobile. Rather than having to take the car everywhere (grocery shopping etc) you could take the hand bike instead.

Again, its a great arm exercise, you can vary the intensity of your workouts and since your sitting, its much easier to keep it up for longer stretches. Compare that to going on a long hike and getting tired on the way back...

Weight lifting

You should still be able to do most weight lifting exercises. Either go to the gym or buy a set of weights so you can do them at home. You can also perform one-legged quads, though I suspect your leg already get's plenty of exercise during the day. Unless your physician recommends it, I'd stick to arm exercises and train your leg by walking instead.


While cardio is important for staying fit, I'd also recommend to regularly do some yoga. Not only does this keep your hip/knee joints flexible, which should help you stay mobile. Training your balance should help you make up for the lack of stability and reduce your injury rate.

Above all else, cherish your leg, so don't overdo any exercise, because that would truly make you immobile. Luckily all of the exercises I recommended can be done without your legs, so you can choose for yourself whether you want to use them or not.

Good luck and be sure to come back if you have any more specific questions!

  • 1
    I am 46. My amputation is above knee. My sits ups are about 500/day in 3 or 4 sets. I do 350 reps/day on the rowing like machine. And my walks are 2-3 km. My current weight is 207 with my artificial leg on. I did some checking and our city pool does offer laps swimming during the noon hour. So I think I will buy a season pass. I have not been swimming since I was a kid, but I was quite good and at it then. I had one leg then as well (I have been an amputee for over 40 years). I do Yoga and weight lifting. I did not mention them in my question because I am looking for cardio options.
    – Kevin
    Jul 8, 2011 at 15:52
  • 3
    "Technically speaking you should even float easier, due to the reduced weight," Flotation is determined by density, not weight. Mar 22, 2012 at 14:09
  • 1
    Correct, but if your leg has a larger density than water, then 'missing' one means you're less dense. Feel free to 'correct' my post though if you feel strongly
    – Ivo Flipse
    Mar 22, 2012 at 14:12
  • Hand-biking sounds good, but a recumbent (sit-down) bike with some kind of pedal attachment going on might be also be a good solution for a lot cheaper (not custom). There's one-legged athletes on somewhat regular (racing) bikes with a "cup" for the amputated leg, but that kind of setup looks like they need help to get on and off the bike safely.
    – freiheit
    Jul 31, 2012 at 23:59
  • In regard to the swimming aids for scuba diving, as a divemaster, I've helped out with taking a couple of people diving who didn't have the use of their legs (yes, I know it's not the same), they used webbed gloves to move around in the water (something like these darkfingloves.com)
    – Dark Hippo
    May 5, 2016 at 10:00

I'm a right leg above knee amputee. I lost it 8 years ago and went from 135 to 242 pounds. Finally I told myself I could do anything with one leg. A year later and I am down to 142 pounds. I never had a chance to go swimming even though that would be the best for my joints. All I did and still do is weight lift and cardio. As for the cardio, all I do is pick 5 random exercises. I change them up everyday so I don't ever get too sore so I can still hit the weights. I do 10-25 reps of each exercise, rest 30 to 90 secs and I repeat 5 times. The whole point is to get my heart-rate pumping real fast then give it time to slow down a little but not all the way then get it pumping supper fast again. That's how the fat cells break down. Amino acids, green tea, and caffeine is what I take for my fat burning helpers.

Exercising helps my phantom pain go away and stay away so sometimes I do this twice a day with 5 different exercises. I do all exercises 1 legged never with artificial leg. Once or twice a week I like to run on my crutches for a mile or so then walk fast back home. I do:

  • dips
  • squats
  • push-ups
  • crunches
  • sit-ups
  • scissors
  • leg lifts
  • bicycles
  • bend and reach
  • left over right (sitting down)
  • and jumping jacks.

Sometimes I do random exercises at the gym with the bar. Curls, pullovers, good mornings, brain busters... you get the point -- anything and everything that keeps the heart rate up without wearing my muscles out. I went from super fat to very lean muscle. I hope this helps a little. Good luck on slimming up.

  • this is off topic but for the phantom pain I heard about this one experiment they in my Mirror Neuron System class where they showed and amputee the other limb in a mirror or something like that. it fooled the brain into thinking that the phantom limb was actually there. that allowed people to remedy whatever they felt on the phantom limb. :P I dunno if you've heard anything about that.
    – moesef
    Mar 21, 2012 at 21:04
  • 100 pounds in one year with one leg? You probably should become a coach or something similar. Many people with two legs cannot even lose that much in that short a time. Good job! :) Mar 6, 2014 at 22:06
  • +1 for perseverance and results, as well as for a well-formulated answer. Nov 28, 2016 at 18:29

I have been an amputee since 1982. I don't think jumping or hopping is a great idea for regular exercising. Often times I was too lazy to use my crutches around the house and would hop on my left leg. I developed severe osteoarthritis in my good knee and recently had to have a total knee replacement. It is all good now and feels better than it has in years, but if I had it all to do over, I would not hop or jump unless necessary.


I am an above knee amputee, and have been for 8 years. I came looking for more exercises to do, but can give some advice as well.

Swimming is an excellent exercise, for all the reasons mentioned. The only caution I give is to make sure you work out a plan for getting in and out of the pool before you commit to it. The pool I use has a lift, but I prefer not to use it.

Hand biking is AWESOME! Be prepared to hurt for the first few days. Keep in mind that a handbike is very low slung, so you will want to put a flag on it for visibility, as well as the lights. Hand bikes are expensive, so a good alternative is a stationary handbike. I've noticed a lot more gyms having these nowadays.

Also, FOR ME, I can use a regular bike to some extent as well. It depends on the type of knee you have on the prosthetic (I have a 3R80) A third option is a recumbent bicycle, which was what caused me to look into a regular bike. (I hadn't ridden a bike in probably 20 years)

Walking is always a plus. Pilates in addition to yoga is a good call.

PERSONALLY, I would not recommend jump rope except as an additional exercise. You will be beating up your real knee, and that is something to avoid. By all means, you can do it, but I would make it a once or twice a week exercise, not a primary one.


I've been a right-leg AKA for over 33 years now, and have developed lower back problems. My workout routines include:

I ALWAYS start with a 30 minute stretch.

Swimming - while you can swim with just your arms, your shoulder and arm movements on your injured side compensate greatly for balance, and you end up tiring quickly. So, get a flotation device that wraps around your waist and a swim fin. While you can swim without such devices, they help greatly with your balance.

Handcycling - awesome exercise. Just be careful out on the streets. I usually just ride on bicycle-only trails.

Weightlifting - I use machines that allow me to stretch and pull (rowers, pull downs, etc...). Light weight high reps.

Walking - treadmill or outside (either with a cane, hiking poles or a walker)

Boxing - I have boxing gear, including a BOB in my garage.


I am a BKA and am starting to experience lower back pain. I suspect it is due to several factors: my prosthesis (it's a good one, but still a prosthesis), bed, and my balance is lacking too.

I am active, as I work hard, in a high paced environment, walking, lifting, and loading are regular occurrences, although I realized in the last few years my balance is lacking, and now recently back pain. I fall a lot. I went to an osteopath, and she gave me some core exercises, including the exercise ball. This helped tremendously.

Bike riding is great too, I used to ride everywhere. I try to find any excuse to take my bicycle for errands and things.

For those amputees reading this, try not to worry about limitations too much, it will hold you back. It's always worth trying it at least before you excuse it entirely, I am an amputee with 27 years of experience.


As a hip disarticulate amputee my entire life, you should look for cardio exercises that protect and save your good knee. Examples are swimming, upper body cardio (arm pedal machine on table top), and rowing without use of your leg. You do not want weight gain so exercise is key. You also expend twice the energy walking as a two-legged person. Good luck.


I feel a little awkward submitting this answer as, unlike the majority of the answers above, I have no personal experience, only anecdotal.

When I used to climb, there was a regular at the climbing wall who was a fantastic climber and had a below the knee prosthetic (he actually came up to a couple of us one evening and asked if anyone had an allen key he could borrow to tighten his foot... probably one of the oddest things I've ever been asked while climbing).

I'd recommend giving climbing a try. You can climb in a style according to your abilities, personally I use my feet a lot and climb in a very relaxed manner, whereas my regular partner climbs in a more dynamic way, using a lot of his upper body strength.

As I said, I don't know if this is a fair suggestion based on your personal circumstances, but it may be something to consider.

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