Top Special Needs Home Exercises

Top Special Needs Home Exercises

Did you know that there are thousands of different exercises for special needs?  Where do you even start?  As a company that has worked with several hundred special needs clients, we have identified some of the top special needs home exercises.

  • Functional exercise – exercises that translate into everyday activities. Example: a chair squat.  Most people sit and stand on a daily basis.  An example of a non-functional exercise would be a shrug.  Can you think of a functional reason to perform a shrug?  Most people carry stress and have a lot of tightness in their shoulder area, so performing a shrug would be counterproductive towards functional training
  • When selecting exercises for the special needs population, you should ask two questions: 1.) What is the level of functioning of this individual? ) Based on the level of functioning, what are some functional exercises they are able to do?  Regardless of the functioning level, there is always something they can do.   Below are three functional exercises that most of our clients can perform at home
  • We encourage a family member or caregiver to be involved in this process. Not only do we want to make sure everyone is safe, but doing these exercises with the participant will give them more confidence and will also help the person doing it.
  • We use the “tell-show-do” method.
  • Tell the participant what they are about to do and how it’s going to help them.
  • Show the participant how to perform the exercise, or have them watch a video
  • Have the participant do the exercise for themselves

Before You Exercise, Read This

  • Before you exercise, it is very important that you drink 16oz of water and eat 1-2 hours before the workout. Several of our clients have experienced light headiness and fatigue from not eating prior to the workout.  When possible, try to eat some form of carbohydrate before your work.
  • On the exercises, you are about to see below, stick with lighter weights and higher repetition. Focus on quality, not quantity.  Aim for 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Plan your week in advance of when you are going to exercise, how long, and what exercises you are going to do. If you don’t plan, your planning to fail!

Speed Agility Ladder

  • The speed agility ladder ranks high on our top special needs home exercises due to its versatility
  • The speed agility ladder is inexpensive, mobile, and can be used by almost all ambulatory special needs individuals
  • 100’s of different exercises to try available on Youtube:
  • Start with a smaller ladder such as an 8-rung ladder and work up to longer ladders.
  • Allows the client to work on balance, sensory skills, motor skills, strength, endurance, and many exercises can engage both sides of the brain!


Special Strong Find a Location Near Me


Hip Bridge

  • The hip bridge is one of our top special needs home exercises because of how inclusive it is with all special needs populations
  • The hip bridge is a great exercise to engage the glutes and hip musculature (the core). Most people have what is called “glute amnesia” which basically means the glutes are turned off, or underactive from not getting any use.  This is a huge cause and can eventually lead to knee problems, such as knee valgus (when the knees cave in from weak hips).
  • Start by laying on your back, face up. Come up on your heels, and press your hips up towards the ceiling.  Shoulders, hips, and knees should be in line
  • As you can see from the picture, many clients need “muscle tapping” so they know what to do. It is very helpful to use your hands and tap the glute muscle while pushing them up, letting them know they are to lift their glutes.

Chair Squat

  • The chair squat is a top special needs home exercises for the special needs population because of it’s ability to build confidence and translate to more functional movements
  • Sitting and standing is something that everyone does on a daily basis. It also requires a lot of energy (calories) to perform, making it an effective weight loss exercise when done with enough intensity and repetition.
  • When mastered, it can progress to bodyweight squats which are even more effective

Find a chair where the participant’s feet can touch the ground while sitting.  Start in the seated position with feet shoulder-width apart, arms crossed. Push knees out and stand up, keeping a straight back. Repeat.


Top to bottom exercises – Medicine Ball Slam

We selected a brain exercise in our list of top special needs home exercises because of how exercise can impact the brain.  Using our CBSE model, we integrate the brain using top to bottom exercises, which cross over the transverse midline (imaginary midline) of the body.  The imaginary midline can help your child’s brain stabilize their emotions, timing, rhythm, and learning.  One way that we incorporate top to bottom exercises is with a latex-free slam ball. Not only is it fun, but it is great for emotional grounding (fewer meltdowns!)  Additionally, the slam ball can activate core musculature and increase both strength and endurance when done for extended periods of time. We suggest starting with a 3lb or 5lb slam ball.

To perform a medicine ball slam, start with a medicine ball above the head.  Brace and tighten the core, bend the knees, and throw the ball into the ground.  Repeat.

4 Workouts That Reduce Behaviors in Children With Special Needs

Standing or Lying Side Abduction

The side abduction is a great exercise to activate the glute medius (the outside part of your glute).  Strengthening the glute medius is very important because it’s the main function is to provide rotate of the thigh, which enables a steady walking gait.

There are many ways to activate the glute medius.  Our personal favorite is with a resistance loop band, which adds additional resistance to the movement.  The movement can be done with or without the use of a band.  To perform this exercise, start with both legs straight.  Then, push one leg out to the side until it is at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Slowly lower your leg to starting position and repeat.  Make sure that your toes stay in line with each other as you push the leg out.  If you have trouble balancing, hold on to a chair or study object with opposite arm.  This exercise can also be performed on the ground lying on your side in the same manner.

Here is a link to the bands we like to use: Starwood Sports Exercise Resistance Loop Bands – Set of 4 by Starwood Sports  Link:

Goblet Squat

  • This is one of the best functional exercises for beginners. In our experience, not all of our clients are able to properly perform the goblet squat.  However, many of our more experienced and higher functioning clients are able to perform the exercise.
  • To perform this exercise, use a Kettlebell or Dumbbell in a front-loaded position. If you don’t have access to weights, simply cross your arms and do bodyweight.  The weight should rest on your upper chest. Your core should be braced and tight with the chest up at all times.  With your feet outside of shoulder width apart and toes pointed out, sit back and squat between your legs pushing knees out with elbows while facing forward.  Make sure your knees line up with your toes.


In conclusion, there are hundreds of different functional exercises that will benefit the special needs population.  Everyone is unique, so find what works best for you and add it to YOUR top special needs home exercises!  As long as you start somewhere, you are making progress and on the way to becoming “Special Strong!”



Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.