How to Burn Fat When You Can't Use Your Knee

Exercises using your upper body will allow you to burn fat without using your knees

Exercises using your upper body will allow you to burn fat without using your knees

When you think of burning fat, you most likely think of cardiovascular exercises that use your legs, such as running or biking, but it is still possible to burn fat when you are unable to use your knees. To do this you need to get creative and perform dynamic exercises with your upper body that will get your heart rate up. Some exercises that do this include using an arm ergometer to cycle with your arms, swimming with a pull buoy between your legs, or using a row ergometer with only your upper body.

Arm Ergometer

Sit in a chair, or the seat of the machine if it has one, and adjust it so that your arms stay slightly bent when at the furthest point from your body and so the center of the arm crank is at shoulder level.

Adjust the resistance, choose a program, or press "Quick Start" depending on what type of arm ergometer you are using.

Grasp the arm cranks and cycle with your arms.

Swimming with Pull Buoy

Place a pull buoy between your thighs.

Drop your shoulders back and allow your body to come up to a back float position if you plan to perform a stroke face up, or drop your chest down and allow your body to come to a front float position if you plan to perform a stroke face down.

Swim the stroke of your choice only using your upper body, keeping the pull buoy between your legs to keep your lower body afloat.

Row Ergometer -- Upper Body Only

Sit on the row ergometer seat and strap your feet in.

Grab the handles with both hands and straighten your legs. This is your starting position. The usual movement requires you to bend and straighten your knees, but if you cannot use your knees, you can modify the exercise to use the machine with only an upper-body movement.

Extend at the hips, leaning back and keeping your back flat.

Pull the handles in toward your chest.

Extend your arms back out and flex at the hips leaning forward.

Items you will need

  • Arm ergometer
  • Pull buoy
  • Row machine


  • To increase the intensity of these exercises, move faster or increase the resistance of the machine for the arm and row ergometer. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, if you are trying to lose or maintain weight, you should exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 250 minutes per week.


  • Always consult your physician prior to starting a new exercise program.

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About the Author

Jacquelyn Slater is a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist and group fitness instructor. Slater earned a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Slippery Rock University and a Master of Sciece in health and fitness from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently serves as the health and wellness director at the Titusville YMCA.

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