Wheelchair Exercise Selection Criteria

There exists some basic criteria that we as wheelchair lifters must focus on. These should be our primary heavy movements that most of our focus on Progression via added weight or reps should apply to.  These criteria are as follows:

  1. Ability to go Heavy
  2. Are Safe or Stable
  3. Are Low Maintenance


Every set does not have to be an attempt to break a world record, or a personal record.  But for an exercise to be highly beneficial to the wheelchair lifter it must be something that you can continually progress on via the Double Progression Method.  It must be an exercise you can go balls to the wall on in a max effort set, a dynamic set or a high rep set.

Safe and Stable

To meet the above criteria the exercise must have the lifter in a stable position, where you are locked in and are not concerned with bracing yourself.  The lifter should not have to spend a lot of energy bracing themselves, or more importantly not falling out of their wheelchair or tumbling the entire chair over.  If on a bench or machine we must feel fairly safe performing the lift as it becomes extremely difficult to focus on a lift if we are wobbling all over the place.  We can enhance this security via straps to lock down our legs or across our lower chest to help lock us in. 

Low Maintenance

This really applies to answering this question, "can I do this exercise without the help from someone else."  This applies to getting in position to do the lift as well as adding the weight.  It may be no problem getting on a machine and setup for a specific lift, but if we cannot safely load the weight on for the lift that is obviously a problem.  This specific criteria item applies more to my situation as  I most often lift alone, but may be less of an issue for others.  If you are always lifting with a partner where you have assistance loading the weight on than half of this problem goes away.  

Even if you do lift with a partner I highly recommend NOT depending on that partner to help stabilize you as you lift.  When lifting on any lift you must have a consistent platform from where to exert the power, speed and energy to execute the lift.  This stabilization should not be coming from another person in most situations.