Top 5 Strength Exercises for Down Syndrome

Today’s post will tell you some of the basic, yet most beneficial, strength exercises for Down syndrome. But before that, let’s first dive into what Down syndrome is and why strength training is very important.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects 1 in every 700 babies born in the U each year.

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Children and people with Down syndrome experience delays in development, not just mentally but also physically. Because of this genetic condition, a person with Down syndrome can experience any or a mix of the following physically:

  • Decreased strength
  • Low muscle tone
  • Posture problems
  • Balance difficulties
  • Challenges with hand movements

All these limitations often result to difficulty in doing simple physical activities like feeding themselves.

Normally, a person’s ability to function and perform daily activities decreases with age. However, people with Down syndrome experience this loss at an accelerated rate. This is because people with Down syndrome suffer from hypotonia, or weak muscle tone. This weakness in the muscles causes compression which can also lead to poor muscle coordination and numbness in the limbs.

This loss of functional ability for the Down syndrome populations also means the loss of their independence.

To remedy this, people with Down syndrome are encouraged to engage in regular physical activity to improve their muscle tone and strength.

In this post, we will discuss the Top 5 Strength Exercises for Down syndrome. You will also learn how to execute each one even at the comfort of your own home.


Strength exercises for Down syndrome

For starters, there are five (5) basic strength training exercises that you must know:

  • Gait pattern exercises like running and walking
  • Hip-dominant exercises like hinges and deadlifts
  • Knee-dominant exercises like lunges and squats
  • Pulling movement exercises like pull-ups and row
  • Pushing movement exercises like pushups and presses

All these exercises target a major muscle group. But each exercise will depend on your fitness level and your fitness capacity.

For those without any experience of doing physical activities at all, jogging or cycling on a stationary bike would be a good start. Both activities improve overall strength and also promote balance.

Here are five more strength exercises for Down syndrome that you can do:


Strength Exercise for Down Syndrome #1: Shoulder Retractions
Target Muscle Group: Arms and Chest


  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Hold your arms straight at shoulder level at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Curl your fingers as if gripping handles.
  4. Push your arms as far as it can go in front of you and pull back until your elbows bend on the side.
  5. Repeat this for 10-15 reps.
  6. If you want to add more intensity to this exercise, you can attach a resistance band to the wall and hold it as you do this exercise.

 Here’s a short video of this exercise. However, make sure that you hold your arms straight out instead of putting it at your back.

Strength Exercise for Down Syndrome #2: Chest Squeeze
Target Muscle Group: Arms and Chest


  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Hold a balloon, rubber ball or a medicine ball between your hands at chest level.
  3. Contract your chest muscles by squeezing the ball.
  4. Push the ball forward in front of you as you continue to squeeze.
  5. Afterward, pull back and continue the exercise 10-15 more times.


Strength Exercise for Down Syndrome #3: Knee Lifts
Target Muscle Group:
Knees and Legs


  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Lift your right leg and bend it as high as you feel comfortable.
  3. Hold the position for at least 5 seconds (or longer if you can) then lower your foot back to the floor.
  4. Complete the procedure with your other leg.
  5. Repeat the exercise alternating legs until you’re done with at least 5 reps.

Here’s a version of this exercise:

Strength Exercise for Down Syndrome #4: Stomach Twist
Target Muscle Group:
Arms, Legs and Core


You can do this sitting down or standing up.

  1. Stand up (or sit) straight.
  2. Hold your arms straight at shoulder level at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Twist your upper torso to the left as far as is comfortable.
  4. Twist back to the center then repeat the motion, this time going to the right.
  5. Do this for at least 10 reps.

Strength Exercise for Down Syndrome #5: Squat
Target Muscle Group:
Arms, Legs and Core

This strength exercise for Down syndrome can be varied depending on the level of difficulty. If you think you can’t squat yet on your own, do the chair squat. On the other hand, do the bodyweight squat without the need for a chair.

Chair squat


  1. Sit on a chair. Make sure that you feet is flat on the ground as you sit.
  2. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and cross your arms.
  3. Push your knees out to stand up while keeping a straight back.
  4. Sit back down and repeat the process for 10-15 reps.

Once you are able to master the chair squat, you can progress to doing the bodyweight squats for a more effective strength training.

Below is an example video of this strengthening exercise:

Additional Strengthening Exercise: Farmer’s Walk

This strength exercise makes use of weights to build strength in the arms and legs as you walk.

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  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Hold weights on both hands outside your hips.
  3. Take small steps forward while holding the weights.
  4. Progress by walking faster as you carry the weights.
  5. You can gradually increase the weights and walk slower to build strength.

You can also add weights on every exercise mentioned in this post to make your strength training more effective.


Want more exercises like these? Take a quick look at our Adapted Fitness Training Plan: Exercises for Home or Gym.

A few reminders before we go…

Now if you’re thinking of doing a home exercise program for someone with Down syndrome, here are a few important reminders:

Drink at least 2 glasses of water an hour before you exercise.

Because if you don’t, you’ll probably feel lightheaded from dehydration. Our body loses more water much faster when doing a physical activity so it’s important that you stay hydrated.

Eat at least two or an hour before.

Just like with the first one, this will help you ease fatigue. Eating carbohydrates before you exercise will also give you enough energy to burn.

Stick with lighter weights.

If you wish to strength train using weights, start off with lighter ones. Then increase the weights as you build muscle strength and endurance.

Aim for higher repetition.

This is to ensure that you get the maximum benefit of strength building as you do each exercise.

Plan ahead.

It’s better if you have a professional fitness trainer who is trained to handle exercises with the special populations, including Down syndrome. This way, you will know how to maintain proper posture as you exercise, avoid injuries, know what to eat and what not to eat, what to do and how to make the most of every fitness session.

Consult with your physician or therapist.

Just in case that you have any exercise restriction, it’s best to consult your physician before you engage in any strength exercise for Down syndrome.


Start your strength exercise training for Down syndrome with Special Strong

Down syndrome is a lifelong disability. It’s true that you can do these strength exercises at home. However, it’s different when you have a trained professional who can ensure a safe and beneficial exercise program for you.

If you’re unsure if you’re a good fit, you can try Special Strong for FREE with this 7-Day pass.

Here’s a sneak peek of what a day with Special Strong looks like:

Special Strong offers adaptive and inclusive fitness training for the special populations including Down syndrome. Experience a safe and enjoyable training environment for you or your loved one with Special Strong’s personalized training routine that are tailored fit to your needs.




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