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How to Get a Great Wheelchair Workout at a Public Fitness Club

Not everyone has the luck of living by a perfectly accessible gym. After all, there are only a handful of them in the country. For the rest of us, we have to get creative with the machines that are available at public fitness clubs – but that is not an impossible task. In fact, you may be surprised at how much you can do at a “normal” workout club.

Wherever you end up going, don't stay at home to work out thinking that it’s your only option. Thousands of wheelchair-users across the country workout at regular gyms every day. Whether you're going to a Lifetime Fitness, Planet Fitness or the YMCA, read on for an overview of the best machines to use at a public gym.

Free Weights

Free weights can be one of the easiest ways to get a workout from your wheelchair at a public gym. If you have limited hand strength, you'll need to bring your own gripping assist device like Active Hands. This can work great for many people with low level quadriplegia. When using the free weights, make sure to do an even number of reps on each arm, as well as not overdo it since you will need to use your arms for the rest of the day. Bicep curls, overhead triceps pulls and arm laterals are just some of the arm workouts wheelchair-users like to do.

SCI Fit Arm Cycle

Not every public gym will have one, but if there is a YMCA in your area, you may find a SCI Fit Arm Cycle with your name on it. This is a great machine that allows both the able-bodied and wheelchair-users to get in a cardio workout. The seat is removable so you can roll right up to it, then adjust it as needed and get in an arm cycle workout for up to 60 minutes. Cardio can be a bit tricky to find at a regular club, but this machine rocks it every time.

Cable/Pulley Weights

Cable/pulley weight machines are another excellent way to get a workout from your wheelchair. If you need help gripping the handle on the weight, make sure to use your Active Hands gripping assistance. You can do a variety of workouts using pulley weights, including ones that focus on your triceps, biceps, shoulders, and your core (if you have trunk function).

Bench Press

Many people like to transfer onto a bench press machine, as there are several workouts you can do that workout your arms, shoulders, pecs and back. Lateral workouts can also be done from a bench press, as well as a shoulder press. Also, check to see if the seat is removable. Many of the machines at the YMCA are known to have removable seats.

Ropes & CrossFit Rope Pull Machine

CrossFit is huge these days and a major component of it is working out using ropes. You will likely find a large set of ropes at most workout club now days. With the right balance and gripping help, most wheelchair-users should be able to get the ropes in their hands and move their arms in sequence to get a good cardio workout. Also, look for a rope pull machine, which is essentially a rope that you can keep pulling over and over again from above your head to get a great arm/triceps workout.

And lastly, don't be shy to check out a fitness class even if it's not meant for wheelchair-users. Many wheelchair-users will still attend these classes whether it is yoga, Zumba, or a basic aerobics class. The right instructor will have no problem adapting the workouts to you.


Topics: Health & Exercise, Accessibility & Adaptations

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