5 Exercises You Can Still Do with a Broken Hand or Thumb

5 Exercises You Can Still Do with a Broken Hand or Thumb

Doctors typically recommend that adults exercise at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate level or 75 minutes at a vigorous level. Trainers also typically recommend strength training, targeting all major muscle groups, at least twice per week. Beyond burning calories, strength training has been shown to improve mood and sleep, reduce anxiety, and decrease risk of colon cancer, among other benefits.

However, lifting weights can be difficult or impossible for those recovering from injuries. Someone with a broken leg can’t perform exercises designed to strengthen their leg muscles, but they can at least still do upper-body workouts. Hand or thumb injuries, meanwhile, can make it tough to grip dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. Fortunately, there are several alternative exercises people with an injured hand can perform as part of a full-body workout.

Resistance Band Fly

Resistance bands are particularly effective pieces of equipment for those with hand or thumb injuries because they don’t necessarily have to be gripped, as long as there’s an anchor. In fact, resistance bands are often used to rehab injuries including sprains and strains, hip bursitis, and shoulder pain or dislocation.

For hand injuries, the resistance band fly is especially useful for those looking to work out their chest muscles. Start by anchoring a band at chest height and loop the handles around your forearms. Turn your back to the anchor point and step a couple feet away. With your elbows slightly bent, move your forearms toward each other and contract your chest muscles.

Forearm Push-up

Another alternative chest exercise is the forearm push-up, which is similar to the traditional push-up but doesn’t require use of the hands. Begin by placing a pillow or foam pad under your forearms and ensure they are parallel to each other. Your shoulders should be positioned directly above your elbows. After lifting your knees off the ground to hold a plank position, push through your forearms until your upper back is rounded slightly and return closer to the mat by depressing your shoulders. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable.


Running might not be for everyone, but you don’t have to be great at it to enjoy its physical and mental health benefits, especially if you’re limited with an injury such as a broken hand or thumb. On average, you’ll burn 100 calories every mile you run, though there is some variation depending on the individual. The American Council on Exercise estimates that a 180-pound individual burns as many as 17 calories per minute while running. This means they would burn 170 calories while running a 10-minute mile.

Pace isn’t that important if you are simply running to burn calories. If want to burn 400 calories, just run four miles. Take a full hour at an easy, 15-minute-per-mile pace, or speed up and run at a 7.5-minute-per-mile pace to knock out four miles in 30 minutes.

Studies have also highlighted a range of mental health benefits associated with running. These include prevention of cognitive decline, increased productivity, a calmer state of mind, and the ability to effectively control responses to stress.

Bodyweight Squats

Bodyweight exercises are also useful because, as the name suggests, they don’t require weights or dumbbells. A push-up, for instance, is a bodyweight exercise. While this might be difficult for someone with a broken hand, the bodyweight squat is an ideal movement to work on lower-body strength. It’s also considered one of the five primary foundational movements by the American Council on Exercise.

Standing with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart and your toes pointed outward, brace your abdominal muscles so that you feel tension in your core. While inhaling, hinge at your hips and bend your knees until your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor and your torso begins to flex forward. Exhale at this point and extend upward while simultaneously straightening your legs, hips, and torso. Three sets of eight to 15 reps are adequate for beginners.

Hip Thrusts

The deadlift is one of the best overall exercises as it engages several different muscle groups and builds strength. However, gripping a bar and lifting heavy weights are impossible if your hand is in a cast. Hip thrusts are one of the many alternative movements you can do to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes. This exercise enhances speed and power and promotes optimal hip extension.

While they can be performed with barbells for added resistance, there are multiple ways you can perform hip thrusts without weights. The bodyweight hip thrust, for instance, can be done at home as long as you have access to a bench, couch, or anything that provides back support. Simply sit and lean against the bench with your arms extending to the side and drive your hips upward until they are parallel with your head which, at the end of the range of motion, should be positioned atop the bench.