Hi, friends. Though I love using machines in the gym to strengthen my muscles (especially as a wheelchair user), I workout at home a lot, too.
In this post, I’m providing a list of handicap-approved supplies that can help you get started with working out at home. If you’re not handicapped, you can probably amplify these suggestions!
Obligatory Preface–I am not a doctor or a physical trainer. I learned most of these exercises from my trainer. Also, I apologize in advance for the abundance of made-up names for exercises. 😂
I do a lot of exercising on the floor. You can’t fall far if you’re already on the ground! Since some of my back bones protrude, some exercises hurt my back when attempted on the bare floor, but a (thick) yoga mat cushions my weight and enables me to do a range of exercises without any bone grinding.
Here are some exercises that only require your body and a mat:
- Leg Raises–lie on back, put hands under butt, lift legs as high as possible, go up and down (a 90 degree angle from the floor to your legs is ideal, but some days, I can only get to 45, hehe)
- Crunches/Sit-Ups–lie on back, sit up at either 45 (crunch) or 90 (sit-up) degree angle to floor, lie back down and repeat (I like to lie completely horizontal and reach down to touch my toes when I sit up–a stretch and an exercise in one!)
- Opposite Arm-Opposite Leg–lie on back, lift left leg and right arm into air and try to touch hand to foot, go back down and do the same on other side, repeat (the more of these I do, the less capable I am of touching hand to foot, but it’s the effort that counts!)
- Push-Ups–these are self-explanatory, right? (I can only use my arms for these, but that still hurts!)
- Side Leg Raises–lie on right side, lift left leg into the air up and down in a sideways motion, repeat on other side (I have to hold my leg with my hand but concentrate on using my leg muscles to do the lifting; otherwise, my leg shakes all over the place, haha)
- Hamstring Lifts–lie on stomach, lift one leg in the air as high as possible and bring back down, repeat on both legs (this one kinda hurts my lower back, but I know it’s due to the muscles back there being weak…this one is crucial for a wheelchair user!)
Dumbbells can be used for several exercises, particularly for arms and chest. Dumbbell exercises also challenge my core muscles because I must maintain my balance while using free weights. I use sets of 5’s, 8’s, and 10’s in my home workouts.
Here are some exercises that only require your body and dumbbells:
- Curls–grab dumbbells, extend arms by your side with palms faced upward, lift weights up and lower back down, repeat
- Sideways Arm Lifts–grab dumbbells, extend arms by your side with palms faced inward, bend elbows slightly, lift weights out and back down, repeat (if you look like a bird with wonky wings trying to fly, you’re doing it right!)
- Lifts Over Head–grab dumbbells, push weights upward towards the sky and lower back down, repeat (be careful not to drop them on your head and/or face!)
- Push Outs–lie on the floor on your back and grab dumbbells, push the weights out and bring them back down, repeat (it’s the same motion as a push-up but reversed)
- Weighted Crunches–lie on the floor on your back and grab one dumbbell, hold the dumbbell with both hands and prop the weight on your stomach, do crunches
Grab bars enable me to do exercises that involve standing, and since I want to improve on heart and vascular issues and really work my leg muscles, grab bars are a huge help. Able-bodied people could likely do these with stair rails or even with no rails/bars at all.
Here are some exercises that only require your body and grab bars:
- March in Place–stand in front of grab bar and hold it, march in place and make sure you’re lifting your knees as high as you can (a good one for people with extreme physical limitations but probably too easy for the able-bodied)
- Squats–stand in front of grab bar and hold it, squat and stand back up, repeat
- Step-Ups–hold a grab bar with each hand, step up to the next stair on right foot and lower back down to left foot, repeat on each side (one of the hardest for me–it gets my heart pumping!)
I put this one last because it’s the least necessary on the list. Strap-on weights mostly serve the function of making exercises I’ve already mentioned harder. If you’re able-bodied and want to ramp up these exercises, or if you’re disabled but want to get stronger over time, strap-on weights are great. Most of the labeling on my pair has rubbed off with age, but I think they weigh 2-3 pounds each.
Strap-on weights can enhance many exercises named in this post, including but not limited to:
- Leg Raises
- Opposite Arm-Opposite Leg
- Hamstring Lifts (I use strap-on weights with this one every time–can’t let those back leg muscles atrophy!)
- March in Place
You don’t need a gym to workout! Just a few supplies can open the door to a world of home exercises.
Here’s a typical home workout for me:
- Stretch & warm up
- 10 leg raises
- 10 side leg raises per leg
- 10 hamstring lifts per leg
- Repeat all for 15 reps each
- Repeat all for 20 reps each
- Stretch some more before getting up and in my wheelchair and rolling up to the stairs
- 10 step-ups per leg
- 20 curls w/ 5’s
- 10 sideways arm lifts w/ 5’s
- 15 step-ups per leg
- 15 curls w/ 8’s
- 10 sideways arm lifts w/ 8’s
- 20 step-ups per leg
- 10 curls w/ 10’s, 10 curls w/ 8’s, 10 curls w/ 5’s (aka THE FINAL PUMP-UP)
- 10 sideways arm lifts w/ 8’s (still working up to 10’s)
Thanks for reading! Do you like these tips? How do you stay fit? Is there a more official name for some of these exercises? Let me know in the comments.