Holding a pull buoy between your thighs allows you to swim with only your arms.
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Whether you're fighting a lower-body injury, trying to build upper-body strength or just looking for a new cardio challenge, you'll be glad to know that a number of workouts cater to your needs. Cardio exercises don't require use of your legs to be effective, and you have plenty of options to create a varied routine.
Cycle Your Arms
Look for the upper-body ergometer among the cardio machines in your gym. It looks similar to an exercise bike, except that you sit in a seat with a back and turn the pedals with your hands. Tabletop home versions are also available, allowing you to stand if you prefer. If you prefer to exercise in a group setting, try Kranking - the brainchild of Spinning founder Johnny G - which is like a spinning class for your arms, performed on a machine called a Krankcycle.
Climb the Rope
If you ever loved rope-climbing in P.E. - or even if you didn't - you'll find the endless rope machine to be the adult version. This piece of equipment is sort of like a treadmill for your upper body. The rope hangs from above you and feeds through the machine and back to the top as you pull it down. By resting your feet on the tilted plate at the base of the machine, you use only your upper body and the rope to keep you upright. When you stand on the floor, turn your back to the machine and hold the rope behind you - your shoulders will get an added workout.
Pull Some Buoys
Swimmers who are familiar with kickboards might not know about their lower-body counterpart, the pull buoy. This small piece of curved foam fits between your thighs and stays in place when you squeeze your legs together. A pull buoy causes your hips and thighs to float, allowing you to do all the work of pulling yourself through the water with your arms. Triathlete.com recommends against using pull buoys for more than one-third of your total daily yardage, however, since it can cause your back to arch. If you're working out with a pull buoy because of a lower-body injury, take it slow - swim only a few laps at a time to start.
Add Some Rowing
Most gyms have rowing machines among the cardio equipment. These machines allow you to sit down on a sliding seat connected to a horizontal track - you rest your feet on a footrest, and slide backward and forward by pulling on a retractable rope with handles. However, you do have to bend your knees and use your legs to push against the pulling motion. If you want to row with no lower-body movement at all, head to the lake and rent a kayak. Your legs remain enclosed inside the kayak while your arms do all the work with a double-ended paddle.