CPR: Do You Use Your Hands or Feet?


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is one of the most important life-saving techniques in an emergency, especially when there is no portable defibrillator around. Emergencies can include drowning accidents or a heart attack where someone has stopped breathing.

Bob Trenkamp, a teacher of CPR and the President of the cardiac arrest and stroke charity Saving Lives, suggests that performing CPR with their hands may be too difficult for some people.

He tells us that to compress the adult chest to the 2 inches (5cm) required to keep a heart pumping after a cardiac arrest, a person needs to exert approximately 59 kg’s of pressure over the sternum (breast bone); and then continues that his wife is only 52 kg!

He then goes on to inform that cardiac arrest mainly affects older people at home, and that often these people are living with a partner of a similar age.

He quotes research which was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine (doi.org/6ht).

Standing Chest Compressions

“You take your shoes off and stand with your toes next to the tops of someone’s ears, facing their feet. Then you put a heel at the centre of their chest, between the nipples, and start pushing down twice a second. You can hum Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees to keep yourself in time.” (Hamzelou, 2015).

A Word Of Caution

In addition to all of these, there’s still very prudent advice that must be heard of from the American Heart Association.

Never do any form of revival or CPR if you are unsure of the right technique. Doing so might just cause further damage and emergency during a cardiac arrest.

Depending on your training level, here are key points for you to remember:

  • Untrained:
    • When you are not trained with CPR, only do CPR with your hands and never with your feet.
    • This means performing uninterrupted chest compressions at 100 to 120 times per minute while waiting for 911 or the paramedics to arrive.
    • Do not even attempt to perform rescue breathing as you might do it incorrectly.
  • Well trained:
    • If you are well trained with CPR, start by checking for a pulse.
    • If there’s no pulse or breathing within 10 seconds, you can start performing chest compressions.
    • CPR begins with 30 chest compressions, with two rescue breaths in between.
  • Trained but rusty:
    • This applies if you have previously received CPR training, but you are no longer as confident with your abilities.
    • Follow the same process as those who are untrained.

What To Do Before CPR

The success of performing CPR is also dependent on the preparation that you do right before the CPR itself. Check the environment first to ensure that you are going to perform CPR in the safest way possible.

Before you start CPR, check for the following:

  • Check if the environment is safe for the person.
  • Look for flat surfaces.
  • Evaluate whether or not the person is conscious or unconscious.
  • Call the emergency services before performing CPR, so they are on their way while you perform CPR.

“CPR saves lives, but some bystanders may hold back from helping for fear of being sued. New research suggests the higher legal risk comes from not helping.” (AMA, 2019).


All things considered, the most important tip to remember is to stay safe. If you have not received any training in CPR, then it may be best to phone the emergency services and stay with the patient until they arrive.

Inadequate or poorly performed CPR can do more harm than good for the patient.

When you are confident about performing CPR, keep doing this until professional help arrives or until the patient regains consciousness.

Now that you know the importance of learning how to perform CPR, it may be a good idea for you to undergo training now.


Hamzelou, J. (2015) Of Hearts and Heels. New Scientist. 08 August 2015, pp.23.


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