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How to stay fit when recovering from an injury

If you’re on the mend from an upper or lower body injury, stay strong by implementing the following exercises.

Seated Leg Extensions
Seated Leg ExtensionsRead moreCourtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Is an injury hurting your workout goals? If you’ve been sidelined by a broken bone or a torn muscle, you know just how long and frustrating the healing process can be. And sometimes it can feel like your body is never quite the same following these traumas. This is sometimes due to the physical adjustments the body had to make to compensate for the injured, weaker areas. Over time, these slight shifts in positioning can cause a damaging domino effect that impacts the surrounding muscles and joints.

But by staying active, even when recovering from an injury, you give your body its best shot at returning to its strong, pre-injured state. Once you get clearance from your physician, the goal is to move slowly, practice patience with your body, and avoid accidentally applying pressure to the injured area.

If you’re on the mend from an upper or lower body injury, stay strong by implementing the following exercises. For best results, repeat each circuit three-to-five times.

Common Sore Spot: Knee

To keep the knee protected from pressure and pain, it’s safest to focus on upper body exercises performed from an armless chair. When doing so, maintain proper form with shoulders stacked over hips and neck aligned with spine.

Three-Way Extension

  1. From a seated position, begin by holding a single weight in your hands positioned close to your chest. Keep your elbows tucked by your ribs.

  2. Lift the weight overhead until your elbows are next to your ears. Hold for a count then lower the weight behind your head for a triceps extension. Now bring the weight back overhead and lower it down to your chest.

  3. From here, brace your core as you extend the weight out in front of your chest. Hold for a count then bring the weight back to the starting position. This sequence is one rep. Repeat eight times.

Seated Shoulder Press

  1. Start in a seated position with a weight in each hand. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle with the weights at ear level and palms facing forward.

  2. Press the weights up and in toward each other without touching. Hold for a count then slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position. Repeat 12-15 times. For an added challenge let gravity work against you: Move at half speed on the way down to increase the difficulty.

Ball Toss

  1. Adjust your chair so it is several feet away from a wall. Start in a seated position holding a light, bouncy ball in your hands at chest height.

  2. Toss the ball at the wall then catch it as it bounces back to you. This is a great exercise for improving eye-hand coordination. Repeat 20 times. If the ball drops and you need assistance, ask a loved one for help rather than getting up and down from the chair.

Common Sore Spot: Shoulder

While the shoulder heals, you’ll want to focus more on light cardio (think a slow walk or stationary bike) and lower body fitness. The good news is that the lower body is home to major muscle groups like the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, that burn far more calories than smaller muscles when engaged. The lower body also plays a pivotal role in balance, so you will have ample aerobic options to work with while your shoulder is resting.

An important safety note: If your balance is a little shaky, this is not the time to perfect it. Remember, we don’t want to place any pressure on your shoulder. If you lose your balance, you will not be able to brace your weight by leaning on your injured side. A slight slip up can derail your healing process. Less is more as your body recovers.

Seated Leg Extensions

  1. With your feet planted on the floor, shoulders back, and core muscles tight, keep your right foot flexed at your ankle as you extend your right leg up until it forms a straight line with your hip.

  2. Squeeze your quad muscle, located at the top of your thigh, then slowly lower your leg back down. Repeat 10-12 times then practice on the left leg.

Calf Raises

  1. Stand with your strong side near a wall for support. Your feet should be parallel and hip-width apart.

  2. Shift your weight into the balls of your feet while elevating your heels off the floor. Hold, squeezing your calves for two counts then lower your heels until they hover just above the floor. Repeat 10 times. Boost the challenge by practicing with one foot at a time.

Sumo Squat

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes turned out to a 45-degree angle.

  2. Keep your gaze forward and core engaged as you hinge back at your hips, lowering your body into a squat. Aim to have your thighs parallel to the floor. Hold for two counts then push through your heels to stand. Squeeze your glutes and repeat 10 times.

Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit