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10 Expert Core Exercises for Stroke Patients to Improve Stability

expert physical therapist, Cassie, demonstrates core exercises for stroke patients

Core exercises for stroke patients are essential for improving balance, reducing your risk of falling, and improving your gait (manner of walking).

Below you will find stroke exercises for trunk control and stability with photos from our physical therapist Cassie.

Cassie’s PT core exercises are arranged from easiest to hardest.

Video: Core Exercises for Stroke Patients with PT Cassie

Before we get started, here’s a video that walks you some easy core exercises for stroke patients.

It’s a great warm-up, and you’ll get to meet Cassie!

Seated Core Exercises for Stroke Patients from a Physical Therapist

Below, you will find 5 seated core exercises for stroke patients. These are the easier exercises to prepare you for more difficult movements.

Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)

1. Trunk Rotation (Twists)

physical therapist demonstrating seated core exercises for stroke patients

Begin this seated core exercise by placing your right hand on the outside of your left thigh. With your back straight, use your arm to help twist your torso to the left.

If you can’t move your right hand, then you can use your left hand to assist it. Be sure to keep your spine straight and don’t twist to the point of pain.

Return to center and complete this trunk rotation 15 times.

2. Lateral Trunk Flexion (Oblique Crunches)

physical therapist showing seated core stabilization exercise for stroke patients

From a seated position, dip your left shoulder down towards your left hip. Then, return to an upright position by focusing on using your core to pull yourself up.

If you can’t fully complete this exercise yet, then you can use your arm to push yourself back up. Repeat this seated core exercise on each side 15 times.

3. Forward Punches

Cassie, DPT, demonstrating forward punches seated core exercises for stroke patients

For this seated core exercise, clasp your hands together and then punch forward. Use your trunk to lean forward while keeping your arms parallel to the floor.

Go as far forward as you safely can without falling. Then, use your back muscles to come back up. You should really feel this in your core. Repeat 10 times. If you feel any pain in your back, stop immediately.

4. Lateral Punch

stage 1 of lateral punch trunk control exercises for stroke patients
stage 2 of lateral punch core exercise

From a seated position, interlace your fingers and extend arms in front of you with your elbows straight. Then, lean to the right and “punch” the air. Return to center, and repeat again for a total of 18 repetitions.

Lying Core Exercises for Stroke Patients

The following core exercises will be done from a lying position either on a yoga mat or physical therapy table.

These trunk control exercises are more advanced, so try them once you have mastered the exercises above.

5. Leg Rotation

leg rotation starting position
leg rotation ending position

Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Then, let your knees fall to the right and twist your truck to help your legs lower. Then, lift your knees back up and repeat on the other side. Complete 20 repetitions.

6. Leg Raise

leg extension core exercise for stroke patients position 1
leg raise mat exercises for stroke patients position 2

Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Extend your affected leg so that your knee is straight. Then, lift your leg up as far as you safely can, and then bring it back down. Repeat 10 on each side.

7. Bridges

advanced trunk control exercises for stroke patients
DPT demonstrating advanced trunk control exercises for stroke patients

Lie on your back with both knees bent at 90 degrees. Then use your core to scoop your glutes up, making sure not to sway to either side. Then, release your body back down and repeat 10 times.

Advanced Trunk Control Exercises for Stroke Patients

8. Crunch

basic mat core exercises for stroke patients
simple crunch core exercises for stroke patients

For this movement, do not pull on your head. Instead, lift as high up as you can go using your core muscles.

While lying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees, place your hands on your thighs. Then, lift your core up and slide your hands up to your knees, or as high as you can safely go. Then, release back down. Try to complete 30 crunches.

9. Knee to Chest

dpt demonstrating mat exercises for stroke patients for core strength

From a comfortable lying position, hug your knees into your chest. Then, hold on to left leg with your left arm and then extend your right leg onto the floor. This is your starting position.

From your starting position, bring you right leg back into your chest. Try not to use your leg muscles to achieve this movement. Focus specifically on engaging your core and using your core muscles to lift your leg up.

Once your leg is back in your chest, give your core muscles a good squeeze, then release your leg back down. Perform 10 repetitions with each leg.

10. Toe Taps

physical therapist demonstrating advanced core exercises for stroke patients

While lying on your back, assume table top position by lifting your legs with your knees at a 90 degree angle. Your shins should be parallel to the floor and your core should be fully engaged.

Then, from this tabletop position, bring your left leg down and gently tap the floor with your left foot. Then, bring your leg back up by using your core muscles. Maintain a 90 degree bend in your knee the entire time.

Repeat on the other leg, all while keeping your core as tight as possible. This completes one set. Perform 10 sets total.

Doing Your Core Exercises

By using these rehabilitation exercises to strengthen your core, you will improve your stability, balance, gait, and even your posture.

Strengthening your core has a ripple effect into your other extremities, like your arms and legs, because you need a strong core to practice other rehab exercises.

So be sure to include core work in your full-body stroke exercise regimen at home!

Keep It Going: Download Our Stroke Recovery Ebook for Free

Get our free stroke recovery ebook called 15 Tips that Every Stroke Survivor Should Know by signing up below!

You’ll also receive our weekly Monday newsletter that contains 5 articles on stroke recovery.

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See how Susan is recovering from post-stroke paralysis

“I had a stroke five years ago causing paralysis on my left side which remains today.

I recently began using FitMi.

At first it was difficult for me to be successful with a few of the exercises but the more I use it, the better my scores become.

I have recently had some movement in my left arm that I did not have before.

I don’t know if I can directly relate this to the use of the FitMi but I am not having occupational therapy so I conclude that it must be benefiting me.

The therapy modality motivates me to use it daily and challenges me to compete against my earlier scores.

I heartily recommend it!-Susan, stroke survivor

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