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5 Equipment-Free Home Physiotherapy Exercises for GBS Management

Much like a sudden plot twist in suspense stories, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) sets in quickly and without much warning. That included challenges related to mobility and muscle strength.

Although the neurological disorder occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves, the symptoms are physical too.

Good news, recovery could be closer than you think—right in your living room.

Home-based physiotherapy that uses everyday household items is a practical, accessible solution. Home rehab for Guillain-Barré syndrome helps you regain independence while easily fitting rehab into your daily routine.

Ready to tackle GBS symptoms head-on? Read on to learn five of the best exercises for Guillain-Barré syndrome. These are:

  1. Towel resistance training for legs.
  2. Seated marches with books as weights.
  3. Wall push-ups for upper extremity strengthening.
  4. Arm strengthening with water bottles.
  5. Stair step-ups for whole body exercise.

For more essential tips on setting up your home for rehabilitation of Guillain-Barré syndrome, check out this blog.

1.  Towel Resistance Training

Towel resistance training is a straightforward exercise to strengthen leg muscles while improving coordination. This equipment-free exercise for GBS is accessible and easy to incorporate into your daily routine as it requires just a rolled-up towel.

How to Perform:

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair.
  2. Place the towel under one foot, holding each end with your hands.
  3. Engage your leg by pushing down firmly with your foot while simultaneously pulling up the towel ends with your hands.
  4. Perform several repetitions of this movement at a steady pace.
  5. After completing the set, switch to the other foot and repeat.


This home exercise for GBS strengthens leg muscles while enhancing coordination between your limbs. It provides the dual action of pushing and pulling and engages multiple muscle groups. The forces you apply through the towel can simulate forces your muscles will endure while you stand.

2. Seated Marches with Books

Rehabilitation of guillain-barré syndrome aims to enhance leg strength and improve the hip flexors function. Seated marches deliver on both these fronts.

Need to level up and add greater resistance while increasing the benefits? Simply add the weight of some books. Alternatively, you can replace books with any other heavy object such as a 5L bottle of water.

How to Perform:

  1. Sit comfortably on a sturdy chair.
  2. Place a book (weight) on each thigh to add some resistance.
  3. Carefully lift one knee toward your chest while keeping the book balanced.
  4. Lower your leg back down gently.
  5. Repeat the movement with your other knee.
  6. Continue performing these alternating marches. Focus on maintaining smooth and controlled motion.


This exercise is excellent for strengthening your legs, training control, balance and enhancing the mobility of your hip flexors. The added weight of the books accelerates improvements in muscle tone and joint function. Regular practice of seated marches can significantly contribute to your overall mobility and stability.

3. Wall Push-Ups

Wall push-ups are an excellent exercise for building upper body strength through rehab for Guillain-Barré syndrome. This variant of the traditional push-up uses a wall to reduce strain, making it suitable for different fitness levels and abilities.

How to Perform:

  1. Stand facing a wall, approximately an arm’s length away. Keep feet shoulder-width apart for stable footing.
  2. Place your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height. Spread fingers for better support.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows to bring your chest towards the wall (Maintain a straight line from your head to your heels)
  4. Push back from the wall until your arms are straight again.
  5. Continue for a set number of repetitions while maintaining good form to maximise the benefits.


Wall push-ups are particularly beneficial exercises for Guillain-Barré syndrome to strengthen the chest, shoulders, and arms. They provide a safe alternative to floor exercises as they reduce the risk of strain. Regular practice helps enhance muscle tone and endurance in your upper body.

Patient testimonial for rehab at Clearcut Physiotherapy in London.

4. Water Bottle Weights

This equipment-free exercise for GBS uses filled water bottles as makeshift weights to strengthen arms and shoulders.

How to Perform:

  1. Hold a water bottle of equal weight in each hand to maintain balance.
  2. Perform bicep curls by keeping your elbows close to your torso and curl the bottles towards your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower your arms back down after a short pause.
  4. For shoulder presses, hold bottles at shoulder height and lift them upwards until your arms are extended overhead.
  5. Carefully lower the bottles back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat each exercise for a set number of repetitions. Focusing on smooth, controlled movements to maximise muscle engagement.


Using water bottles as weights provides easy rehabilitation of Guillain-Barré syndrome for improved arm and shoulder strength. This method is great for increasing muscle tone and endurance without investing in equipment.

5. Stair Step-Ups

Stair step-ups are a straightforward yet effective rehab exercise for Guillain-Barré syndrome.  You just need a staircase to build leg strength and enhance balance and coordination. This exercise is ideal as it can be easily adjusted to your ability levels without buying equipment.

How to Perform:

  1. Begin by standing at the bottom of a staircase with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Step up onto the first step with one foot.
  3. Standing firmly on the step, bring the other foot up.
  4. Carefully step back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement alternating the leading foot with each repetition.
  6. Continue the exercise for as long as you maintain proper form and balance.


Performing stair step-ups regularly helps build leg muscle strength and improve balance and coordination. As part of your rehab for Guillain-Barré syndrome, it strengthens the lower body and enhances functional mobility.

It also helps you reach another goal of Guillain-Barré syndrome rehabilitation: Better navigating steps and uneven surfaces in daily life. Regular practice means improvements in your overall physical stability and confidence in movement.

Integrating Exercises into Daily Routine

Incorporating equipment-free exercise for GBS into your daily routine is essential for continuous improvement. Here are some practical ways to make exercises a regular part of your life:

  • Look for opportunities to include exercises in routine activities. Try performing wall push-ups while waiting for the kettle to boil. Or, do seated marches while watching TV.
  • Place visual cues in common areas of your home. Stick sticky notes on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator will remind you to complete your exercises.
  • Set small, achievable goals to maintain motivation and track progress. Setting and reaching daily targets can keep you engaged and enthusiastic.

Setting a Consistent Schedule

Consistency helps form habits, making you more likely to stick to your exercise regimen. Choose specific times of the day for your exercises.

Try setting reminders on your phone or digital calendar. These alerts can help keep you accountable and ensure you don’t skip exercise sessions.

Keep Yourself Motivated

Become your own biggest cheerleader! Keep a log of your exercises and any improvements you notice, no matter how small. That will help you document tangible progress and help in adjusting your exercise plan as needed.

Notice and celebrate achievements along your recovery journey to encourage continued effort.

Embedding home exercise for GBS into your daily routine and maintaining a consistent schedule means significant strides in your recovery. Remember, patience and persistence are key here. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Every small step forward is a victory.

Your Next Steps

A GBS diagnosis can be hard to handle. The good news is that you’re taking the initiative to manage your recovery through physiotherapy! While it can be a hard and lonely road, please remember you’re not alone.

Help is just a phone call away. Our clinics in Eltham, Battersea, and Norbury are equipped and ready to help you better navigate these challenges.

Our expert team works with you to deliver a program that gets you the most out of your efforts. Ready to take your exercises to the next level? Contact us today to get a customised program that suits your recovery goals.