Find Your Mobility: 7 Great Wheelchair Exercises for People With Disabilities

Wheelchair Excercises

Out of the 7 billion people in the world, about 1 million of them need a wheelchair.

It may be difficult, but you’re not alone.

It can be challenging to do even the most basic things, but just because you’re in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean you can’t work up a sweat. Learn 7 great wheelchair exercises for people with physical disabilities.

1. Weight Training

Just because you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your strength.

There are many different types of movements you can do that can help with this. Doing this can help to build up your bone mass and muscle while also promoting balance which can help prevent falls.

If you can’t move your legs, focus on upper body strength training. You can do different movements, like lifting weights while seated. Many of the weighted workouts at a gym are done while seated.

For these, focus on strengthening your upper biceps, triceps, and chest and back muscles.  However, if you have an upper-body injury, focus on strengthening your legs and core.

2. Yoga and Flexibility

There are also different workouts you can do that will help improve your flexibility and range of motion. When you are more flexible, you will also be able to avoid hurting yourself even more.

These types of exercises could include stretching or doing yoga-like poses. There are many different yoga poses that you could do while still remaining seated.

If you have any ability to move your legs, doing simple stretches may also help them get stronger while also making sure that your muscles don’t shrink and atrophy.

3. Shoulder Retractions

Shoulder retractions are also one of the best wheelchair exercises that you could do. This will help with your upper body strength and increase your flexibility.

To do these, just sit up straight and flex your ab muscles while holding your arms out at a 90-degree angle. They should be level with your shoulders, and your hands should be facing down. Curl your fingers like you are typing on a keyboard.

Push them as far as possible without locking up your joints. Bend your elbows, and then pull your arms back until your elbows are actually behind you. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then repeat this motion.

Once you’ve gotten used to that, you may want to get more out of this workout. To do that, get a resistance band and hold it with both hands. Extend your arms again and then try to pull the band apart.

If you don’t want to do that, you can also tie the resistance band to a doorknob, and then pull the resistance band towards you.

4. Chest Squeeze and Press

There are different chest exercises that you can do as well.

To do one of them, sit up straight using your abs to support your back. Find a medicine ball or something else round near your chest, and then squeeze the ball to work out those muscles.

Keep pushing the ball and pushing it forward until your elbows are almost straight, and then keep squeezing. Do this again and again.

If you are new to this exercise, do the same motion just without an exercise ball.

5. Toe Tilt and Knee Lifts

If you have mobility in your legs, there are different exercises you can do while still sitting down.

Sit up straight again and keep your feet planted flatly on the ground. Lift your toes up towards the sky, and then lower them back down. Do this over and over to help enhance your calves.

If you want to make it more difficult, lift one leg up in the air while keeping the other one on the ground. After doing that, then lift your toes up and down. Do this with the other leg next.

Another exercise you can do is a knee lift.

Keep your feet on the ground again, and then slowly lift one of your legs while bending your knee as if you were marching. Lift your leg up the highest that it can go without being in pain, and then put it back on the ground.

This is similar to doing lunges; you’re just seated while doing it.

6. Strengthen Your Core

You don’t want to forget your abs and your stomach either.

Sit up straight again with your feet on the ground, and hold your arms out at the 90-degree angle we’ve been doing.

While your arms are out with your elbows at your side, start turning your torso to the left and then to the right. Try and keep your lower body completely still and suck in your stomach.

7. On the Side Exercise

This exercise will combine the last few we’ve talked about and will work out your chest, arms, and waist.

Keep your spine straight and sit up, and make sure your hips stay on the wheelchair the entire time.

To do this exercise, keep your left arm raised to the sky while making sure your inner arm is pressed against your ear.

Then tilt your body to make it into a curved, C shape. This will help stretch and strengthen these muscles. As you get better at doing this, eventually your goal should be to be able to touch the floor while bending.

Hold the stretch for about ten seconds, and then repeat the stretch with the other arm.

Try These Wheelchair Exercises Today

Just because you’re in a wheelchair does not mean that you can’t work out. There are all kinds of different wheelchair exercises to try.

The seven that we listed are just a few of them.

Check out our website to find out more and also connect with others who are going through the same experiences as you are.


  1. Liza

    May 21, 2019 at 3:44 am

    Great video. Re sharing at thank you.

  2. Lenora

    July 21, 2020 at 1:12 am

    You should show how to do each of the exercise just a little bit so people understand what you’re talking about that’s all I have to say I think they’re awesome exercises with some of them I don’t understand because you didn’t show what to do so you should try that one in your next video showing what to do.

  3. P Goodman

    June 27, 2022 at 8:28 am

    I agree with Leonora’s comment. In your updated video, it’s not necessary to see the narrator all the time. Show the exercise demonstrations with a background narrator and demonstrate all the exercises. Thanks.


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