Strength Exercises: Minimize the effects of cancer treatment on your muscles

Lora Packel, MS, PT
Copyright © Lora Packel, MS, PT
Last Modified: October 8, 2012

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Disclaimer: You should discuss your health risks with your physician before starting any exercise program.

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Straight leg raise – Quadriceps (thigh muscles)

Beginner

  1. Lie down on your back with one leg bent and one leg straight.
  2. Next, perform a posterior pelvic tilt to protect your back from injury. To do this, draw your umbilicus (belly button) toward the floor. If you are doing this correctly, your back should be flat against the floor/mat. You can also check your technique by putting your hand under the small of your back, on the floor, and flatten your back so that your back is "crushing" your hand.
  3. With your toes pointed to the ceiling, keep your knee straight and lift your leg up to about 45 degrees.
    1. It shouldn’t be raised higher than the bent knee.
  4. Slowly lower your leg back to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times, 3 times in a row.
  6. Repeat with opposite leg.

OncoLink Exercise Description

OncoLink Exercise Description

Advanced

  1. Perform the same exercise as described above with a light cuff weight around your ankle. Start with ½ to 1 pound weight.
  2. You are ready to add weight when you can perform this exercise for one week without experiencing muscle aches.

Standing hip flexion – Quadriceps and Iliopsoas (thigh muscles)

Beginner

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart.
  2. Hold onto a stable chair or table for support.
  3. Perform an abdominal draw in to protect your back from injury. Do this by pulling your umbilicus (belly button) in towards your back.
  4. Keep your knee straight, toes pointed and kick your leg forward in a slow and controlled motion.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times, 3 times in a row.
  7. Repeat with opposite leg.

OncoLink Exercise Description

OncoLink Exercise Description

Advanced

  1. Perform the same exercise as described above with a light cuff weight around your ankle. Start with ½ to 1 pound weight.
  2. You are ready to add weight when you can perform this exercise for one week without experiencing muscle aches.

Standing hip extension – Gluteus musculature (buttocks)

Beginner

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart and hold onto a table or chair in front of you for support.
  2. Perform an abdominal draw in to protect your back. Do this by pulling your umbilicus (belly button) in towards your back.
  3. Keep your knee straight and toes pointed, and kick your leg backward slowly
    1. Make sure you keep your upper body and back straight during the exercise.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times, 3 times in a row.
  6. Repeat with opposite leg.

OncoLink Exercise Description

Advanced

  1. Perform the same exercise as described above with a light cuff weight around your ankle. Start with ½ to 1 pound weight.
  2. You are ready to add weight when you can perform this exercise for one week without experiencing muscle aches.

Standing hip abduction – Gluteus medius

Beginner

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart and have a table or chair next to you for stability.
  2. Perform an abdominal draw in to protect your back from injury. Do this by pulling your umbilicus (belly button) in towards your back.
  3. Keep your knee straight, toes pointed and kick your leg out to the side of your body slowly.
    1. Make sure you keep your upper body and back straight during the exercise
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times, 3 times in a row.
  6. Repeat with opposite leg.

OncoLink Exercise Description

Advanced

  1. Perform the same exercise as described above with a light cuff weight around your ankle. Start with ½ to 1 pound weight.
  2. You are ready to add weight when you can perform this exercise for one week without experiencing muscle aches.

Wall slides – Quadriceps and Gluteal muscle groups (hips, buttocks and thighs)

Beginner

  1. Lean your back against a wall and place your feet one foot (12") in front of the wall.
  2. Hold onto a stable chair for support.
  3. Perform a posterior pelvic tilt to protect your back from injury. Do this by pulling your umbilicus (belly button) back towards the wall.
  4. Slide down the wall until you are almost in a sitting position.
    1. Do not squat into a full sitting position, as this can injure your knees.
  5. Return to the standing position.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times, 2-3 times in a row.

OncoLink Exercise Description

OncoLink Exercise Description

Advanced

  1. Perform the same exercise as described above with a light cuff weight around your ankle. Start with ½ to 1 pound weight.
  2. You are ready to add weight when you can perform this exercise for one week without experiencing muscle aches.

Advanced Alternative

  1. Perform the exercise as described under beginner.
  2. While in the seated/squat position, hold for 5-10 seconds before returning to standing.
  3. You can progress this exercise by holding for a longer period of time.

Standing squats – gluteal musculature, quadriceps (thighs and buttocks)

This is an alternate to the wall slides. If you have difficulty with the wall slides, start with this exercise first and have a chair in front AND behind you for support.

Beginner

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Perform a posterior pelvic tilt to protect your back. Do this by pulling your umbilicus (belly button) in towards your back.
  3. While holding onto a chair for support and having a chair behind you, bend at your knees as if you were going to sit in the chair.
    1. Do not squat into a full sitting position, as this can injure your knees.
  4. Slowly come back to a standing position.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times, 2-3 times in a row.

OncoLink Exercise Description

OncoLink Exercise Description

Advanced

  1. Perform the exercise as described under beginner.
  2. While in the seated/squat position, hold for 5-10 seconds before returning to standing.
  3. You can progress this exercise by holding for a longer period of time.

Heel lifts – Gastrocneumius and Soleus (calf muscles)

Beginner

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and go up onto the balls of your feet. (forefoot/toes)
  2. Slowly come down.
  3. Repeat 10-15 times, 3 times in a row.

Exercise Survey for People with Cancer
We know a lot about exercise in the general population, but are still learning about exercise in the person with cancer. After you read one of the articles below on OncoLink about aerobic and strength training during and after cancer treatment, please consider filling out a brief survey.



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