What Exercises Can I Do to Help Me Push My Chair Better?

Mar 30, 2019

Anonymous asks, quote:

I’m a cane user who is going to be making the transition to part time wheelchair use. What are exercises I can do to build up the arm strength for self‐propelling ahead of time?

end quote.

I talk a little bit about this kind of thing here, but it’s a good topic to expand on.


The first thing you want to focus on is cardio health. It’ll help you move your chair easier and maintain your health as your body gets used to a new style of movement.

Pushing a chair means being able to cover large distances using less energy than if you were walking. While this is great for folks with mobility issues, it can cause health issues long‐term. Because your heart isn’t getting as much of a workout, your cardio health suffers. So, the first thing you should focus on is exercises that increase your heart rate. Something as simple as a seated cardio routine. should do the trick.

Shoulders and Back

Your shoulders and back are going to be the largest groups of muscles that you use while pushing the chair. Rows or lateral pull‐downs will work great for your back. Inclined rows or barbell presses work great for shoulders.

Biceps and Triceps

When you start using your chair, your shoulders may be sore, but your arms are going to be where the “burn” happens. Any strength training you do with your arms is going to benefit you in the chair. I recommend focusing on using free‐weights.

Get the Right Equipment

A good pair of gloves goes a long way when pushing a chair. See my gear list for a recommendation.

Push the Chair Correctly

Technique is just as important as strength when using a chair. Make sure you are pushing the chair with smooth, confident movements

Remember to Be Patient

It’s going to take time for you to get used to your new chair. You’re going to be sore for the first few weeks and it may be discouraging. Don’t give up, keep practicing, and keep using the chair. Part‐time wheelchair use is a full‐time job and the more you practice, the easier things will be.