Category Archives for "Fitness Programs"

Best Exercises for Wheelchair Athletes

When you use a wheelchair to get around, exercising might seem like a lofty goal. While getting around a crowded gym might prove somewhat challenging, you shouldn’t let your wheelchair stop you from getting a great workout.

Whether you’re dedicated to the gym or prefer to take your conditioning outside, there are a number of exercise options you can perform. If you’re looking for ways to take your exercise up a notch, keep reading for a few useful tips.

Cardio Conditioning

As an athlete who uses a wheelchair, it’s important that you perform regular cardio conditioning exercises to maintain a strong and healthy heart and cardiovascular system.

To get the most effective cardio workout, aim for exercises that involve as many muscle groups as possible.

Compound movements—those that recruit more than one muscle group—get your heart pumping faster, circulate more oxygen throughout your body and burn more calories overall. Here are a few great options:

  • Using a stationary hand bike and cranking up the resistance.
  • Playing wheelchair basketball
  • Swimming
  • Using a punching bag or speed bag
  • Propelling your wheelchair around a track.

Focus on Range of Motion

Maintaining an adequate upper-body range of motion is critical to help avoid chest, shoulder, upper back, and arm injuries. You can use elastic bands and lightweight dumbells to help your shoulders stay strong and keep their range of motion.

Because you use your upper body muscles extensively, you also need to practice regular stretching to maintain your full range of motion. Focus on stretches that target your pectoral muscles, deltoids, and triceps; these muscles generate the most force as you propel yourself around.

Try these stretches to get started:

  • Keep your hips straight in your chair while gently twisting your body to one side until you’re looking back over your shoulder. Pause for a few seconds, then slowly twist to the other side to repeat the motion.
  • Reach both arms over your head, interlock your fingers, and push your hands upward as far as you can. Hold the position for several seconds.
  • Grasp your right elbow with your left hand. Gently pull your elbow behind your head until you feel a stretch in your deltoid and tricep. Hold for several seconds, then repeat on your other arm.

Strength Training

When you move your wheelchair, your anterior delts, triceps and pectoral muscles see a great deal of activity.

As such, these muscle groups naturally develop strength with continued daily use. However, you also need to strengthen their opposing muscle groups to avoid developing an unbalanced upper body.

Without dedicated strength training for your upper back and shoulders, those muscle groups will gradually become weaker, potentially leading to injury and dysfunction.

To maintain adequate posterior upper-body strength, try these exercises:

  • Lat pulldowns with a cable
  • Face pulls with a cable and rope attachment
  • Rear-delt flys with dumbbells
  • Lateral raises with dumbbells

You can also add weight training for your anterior delts, triceps, and pecs into the mix, along with exercises to build abdominal strength.

Since your muscles are essentially the motor behind your wheelchair, you’ll need them to be as strong and capable as possible.

Exercising in a wheelchair doesn’t have to be difficult, confusing or frustrating.

With just a few simple modifications, you can achieve a heart-pounding, muscle-building workout that will help you maintain good health and improve your body composition.

Whether you’re hoping to train for endurance or have aspirations to become a wheelchair bodybuilder, keep pushing yourself day in and day out. You can overcome any obstacle life throws your way.

Why It’s Important to Work Out Outside During the Winter

As the fall and winter months approach, many people put their exercise routines on the backburner.

Of course, all of the pumpkin pies, turkey, stuffing, family gatherings, holiday parties, cookies at the office break table, and those awful holiday blues subconsciously also encourage us to indulge more and workout less.

However, there are an overwhelming number of health benefits to keeping up with your morning exercise routine as the temperatures dip.

Here are some other important reasons why you should be working out outside during the winter.

You Will Get More Sweaty Bang for Your Buck

When you drink very cold water on a hot day, your body works harder to regulate the temperature.

The reverse is true when it comes to being out in the frigid temperatures. Your body has to work harder to keep you warm throughout the duration of your outdoor workout.

This results in a higher calorie burn for less effort.

While the number of calories you burn overall will depend on your body and muscle mass, your weight, height, genetics, and the temperature extremity, you can expect to burn up to a third more calories overall.

Your Heart Will Thank You

Female Running In The Mountains

In addition to the heart-pumping benefits of a good workout, cold weather has been scientifically proven to make the heart work harder and faster to pump blood through the body.

If you are in good health and shape and are accustomed to regular cardiovascular training or workouts, cold-weather sessions can actually make your heart even stronger.

If you have not worked out in a long time or are out of shape, you may want to check with a doctor to see if these heart-pumping, cold-weather sessions may put too much strain on your heart muscle.

Vitamin D: Nature’s Winter Candy

The human body needs vitamin D all year. Since vitamin D is primarily derived from sun exposure, it makes sense that many people become deficient in the winter months.

You will get your daily dose of vitamin D during your outdoor winter fitness routine with at least 15 minutes of exposure.

Many guys will make the excuse that all that sweating under all of those layers of clothes will lead to hypothermia, muscle cramping, and charley horses, but the truth is that workout gear with moisture-wicking properties actually regulates your body temperature in frigid climates.

Aside from the slight possibility that you may slip on some ice, there are actually few other hazards associated with outdoor winter exercise.

Here’s a great list of supplements to take to help you build muscle while working out. Working out in the cold will help you bulk up, and be fit and ready for next spring!

Featured image credit: RightFit Personal Training