Top 3 Wheelchair Exercises for Special Needs – Special Strong

Top 3 Wheelchair Exercises for Special Needs – Special Strong

If life involves spending your days in a wheelchair, it’s important that you build the muscles in your upper body. Going to a gym for special needs people is the ultimate solution. But not everyone can access a gym like the one provided by Special Strong. Going to a gym that caters to those with special needs would put you in touch with skilled personal trainers. These trainers can work with you to develop custom wheelchair exercises designed to meet your needs.

Their goal is to help you develop the upper body strength needed for better mobility and independence. At Special Strong we focus our training on your specific needs, setting goals that are within your reach Along with wheelchair exercises, we also focus on teaching you good nutrition habits. Both of these go together in helping you reach your goals and improve your overall health.

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But what are you to do if you can’t get the gym on a regular basis? It would be much better if you could visit a gym like ours at regular intervals. But when you can’t, we have found these three great wheelchair exercises for you to try. They are among the best and most beneficial exercises for anyone who relies on a wheelchair to provide mobility for them.

1.) Push: Chest Press (Pectorals)

Your pecs (pectoralis major) are one of the strongest and most essential muscles in your chest. They create the bulk of your chest and help control the movement of your arms. This makes the chest press one of the best wheelchair exercises to help build both strength and stamina. Those not in a wheelchair can go to their favorite gym and use free weights or machines to build these muscles. But whether you can make it to the gym or not, this form of “Chest Press” can help build your pecs. Here’s what to do:

  • Make sure you look both wheels in place to avoid sudden movement of your wheelchair.
  • Place the resistance band around the back of your chair and
  • Hold one end of the band in each hand.
  • Make sure your palms are facing down and you flare your elbows out to the side directly outside your shoulder.
  • Using a slow and controlled tempo, press forward using your chest muscle.
  • Touch the handles together at the top, and slowly bring back both handles to starting position and repeat for 10 reps. Rest and repeat to build the strength in your pectorals.

2.) Pull: Seated Row (upper back)

For many who spend their days moving around in a wheelchair, upper back pain is par for the course. The answer to this problem is to find a way to build upper back strength. By improving the condition of your muscles, it takes less physical effort to move around. In the gym, a rowing machine is a perfect workout as it works upper, lower, and core muscles. While you may not be able to sit in a rowing machine, you can still give your core and upper body muscles a good healthy workout. And the best part, you can do this in the comfort of your home, whether you go to the gym or not. Gym or not,  this is one of our favorite wheelchair exercises:

  • Place the resistance band around something sturdy like a bedpost or door about waist high.
  • Grab both ends of the band with each hand and move away from the door to create tension.
  • Slowly pull the resistance band towards your torso, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • For maximum benefit, squeeze the shoulder blades together as you pull the band.
  • Slowly allow your arms to come back to the starting position and repeat.

3.) Triceps Extension (Triceps)

According to medical science, you use your triceps (proper name: triceps brachii) to move your forearm in and out or back and forth. Picture the guy in the gym or on TV who is using nothing but his triceps to perform “triceps extensions.” This is where he is holding one-handed barbells and is lifting them with his elbow tucked. The main muscles used to perform these movements are the triceps.

While becoming a professional weightlifter might not be something you are interested in, you do need to strengthen your triceps. You use them when moving around in your wheelchair, to lift heavy items and many simple everyday tasks. Here is one of favorite wheelchair exercises to build your triceps.


  • Using a resistance band and door anchor, attach both devices to the top of a door
  • Lift your hands above your head and grab both handles with palms facing out.
  • Move the wheelchair away from the door to create tension in the arms.
  • Take your elbows and bring them in towards your body, making your elbow line up with the level of your shoulders.
  • Slowly push out, making sure your elbows do not flare out.
  • As you push out to full extension, slowly let the cables come back to the starting position and repeat.

Plenty to Choose From

There are literally hundreds of different wheelchair exercises that you can do in a wheelchair. Many target single groups of muscles others work with multiple groups. You may find a regular regimen of various exercises to be of the most benefit. Just like no two people are alike, neither are their needs. While one exercise might do wonders for one person, it may do nothing for another. It may take some time and working with a personal trainer to find the right exercises for your needs.

Our certified personal trainers would love the opportunity to give you a consultation and show you some of the different exercises that can be done in-home with very affordable equipment. Get started today and give us a call.



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