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 to help you reach your goals and improve your overall health.

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But what are you to do if you can’t get to 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 keep 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 muscles.
  • Touch the handles together at the top, slowly bring both handles back to the starting position, and repeat for 10 reps. Rest and repeat to build 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 the 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 is 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, lifting heavy items, and doing many simple everyday tasks. Here is one of my 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.

The Benefits of Wheelchair Exercises for Special Needs

Engaging in wheelchair exercises brings forth a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional benefits for individuals with special needs.

1. Physical Fitness and Strength: Wheelchair exercises promote cardiovascular health, improve muscular strength, and enhance flexibility. These activities contribute to overall physical well-being, fostering a sense of vitality and independence.

2. Enhanced Mobility and Coordination: Regular wheelchair exercises help refine motor skills and coordination, which are crucial for navigating daily activities. These exercises contribute to increased mobility, offering a greater sense of autonomy and freedom of movement.

3. Improved Mental Health: Physical activity has a profound impact on mental well-being. Wheelchair exercises release endorphins, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. This positive influence contributes to a healthier and more balanced mental state.

4. Social Interaction and Inclusion: Participating in wheelchair exercises often occurs in group settings, fostering social interactions. This sense of community and inclusion positively influences mental and emotional health, promoting a supportive environment.

5. Preventing Secondary Health Issues: Wheelchair exercises assist in preventing secondary health issues, such as pressure sores and muscle atrophy. By maintaining optimal physical health, individuals with special needs can mitigate potential complications.

6. Tailored Fitness Solutions: Wheelchair exercises can be adapted to accommodate various abilities and needs, providing personalized fitness solutions. This inclusivity ensures that individuals of all levels can participate and reap the benefits of regular physical activity.

In conclusion, wheelchair exercises offer a holistic approach to well-being for individuals with special needs. From physical health to mental and emotional resilience, the positive impact of incorporating these exercises into daily routines is immeasurable.

Plenty to Choose From


In the sphere of wheelchair exercises, you are presented with a smorgasbord of choices – literally hundreds of them. These exercises are extremely varied in their effect; a number of them target individual muscle groups, while others deliver a more holistic approach and touch upon multiple muscle groups. Incorporating a diverse array of these exercises into a regular workout regime can potentially yield the most comprehensive benefits.

Broad as these options may be, it’s essential to remember that personal needs differ as vastly as individuals themselves. While one specific exercise may result in tremendous strides for one individual, it might not render any significant outcomes for another. Identifying the exercises that best suit your unique needs and abilities might demand some time, patience, and professional assistance.

Our team of certified personal trainers is always available, eager to provide you with an insightful consultation. They can guide you through a variety of exercises that can be effectively performed within the convenience of your home, making use of affordable, simple equipment. Don’t delay in your quest for health and well-being – reach out to us and let’s get the ball rolling today.

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.