How do you learn to use a prosthetic leg?

Two basic exercises to get familiar with your new prosthesis.

After a leg amputation, a prosthesis will help you improve your freedom of motion and get back to your daily life. But.... No matter how much there is to gain with a prosthesis, the process of getting one can also be nerve-wracking! After all, you have to learn to use your ‘new’ limb all over again. Here are some tips and exercises to get your started.

Learning to walk again...

After a leg amputation, your stamina, coordination and strength may have taken a serious blow. If you get a leg prosthesis, you will have to learn to walk again. You might be dreading the prospect, but it is important to remember to give yourself time to adapt. Wearing and walking with a prosthesis is an entirely new skill, and learning new skills requires time and patience. It will all be worthwhile, though, because all the time and effort you invest now will give you freedom later.

Prosthetic gait training

Through a special prosthetic gait training programme, you will regain your balance and coordination and learn to walk again. So what is a gait training session? It can consist of seemingly basic exercises like walking forwards, backwards and to the side, as well as exercises you can do while sitting down or standing up, and exercises that teach you how to cope with obstacles and uneven surfaces, such as ramps, stairs and curbs. You can safely perform these basic gait exercises at home, depending on what type of prosthesis you have. With most microprocessor controlled (MPK) knee joints, these exercises are no problem, but if you have a mechanical knee joint, you could fall down. So you should always make sure that you have an exercise buddy.


1. Briefly balancing on one leg

This exercise will stabilise your support leg on your amputated side and strengthen your ‘good’ leg. Remember to stand next to a raised surface, such as a chest of drawers or kitchen counter for this exercise, so you can steady yourself with your hands. Stand up straight in a stable stance, with your legs next to each other. Gently raise your prosthetic leg to the side, up into the air. You’ll now be perched only on your healthy leg. Gradually lower your prosthetic leg until both feet are on the ground again. Repeat the exercise with your other leg.


2. Lateral steps

For this exercise, start from the same basic position as the previous exercise. This time, hold on tightly to the raised surface. Again, slowly raise your prosthetic leg to the side until you’re perched only on your healthy leg. This time, lower your prosthetic leg right away, ending up with a slightly wider stance than before. With your healthy leg, take a sideways step until your feet are back together. Repeat these steps and keep taking lateral steps while holding on tightly to the chest of drawers or kitchen counter. After a few steps, change directions until you’re back to where you started. Again, safety is paramount, so only perform these exercises if there’s someone there who can help.

No two people are the same

Which exercise is best for you - and which exercise you’re capable of performing - will differ from person to person, depending on their situation and prosthetic limb. Before starting an exercise programme, always consult your doctor or physical therapist first. They will give you personal advice.

For more exercises and workouts, discover our free Fitness for Amputees app.