8 Exercises for Wheelchair Bound Seniors: An Interview with Dave Lykowski, Clinical Specialist
“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.”
– Mary Kay Ash
Often times the mobility impaired are misunderstood. While the complete function of the legs may have been lost or reduced, the function of the person is certainly not. What are arms for anyway, but to pull us, to lift us, to greater heights and beyond? What are our core muscles for, but to hold, bend, twist, and reach? What is our heart and mind for, but to think and feel?
HUR understands the true potential of our bodies in our older adult years. 70 really is the new 50, and if we are to fully enjoy a gratifying quality of life, then we need to move. That’s why HUR equipment focuses specifically on the unique skill set of senior movement. This allows the user to focus on getting better faster and building strength safer.
There are countless directions the wheelchair-bound can move around in life in an uninhibited and unencumbered way. While only 8 exercises will be given in this article, it's only the beginning of what’s possible.
To give us these 8 exercises, we went to an expert, Dave Lykowski. Dave is a Clinical Specialist focused on senior health and movement. We hoped to distill some of his extensive knowledge around senior fitness into some user-friendly tips, this time, specifically for wheelchair users.
Dave’s background in senior wellness is extensive. He has a degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on preventative rehabilitative exercise science. He’s a physical therapy assistant, a personal trainer, was a Wellness Director of Continuing Care Retirement Communities, and has spent the last several years working with HUR, senior living communities, and seniors.
Dave found the HUR machinery so effective for his personal training clients, that it became his passion. He now trains staff and administration, over multiple sites, on using the equipment to its fullest range of possibility.
So, yeah, Dave knows a few things…
8 Exercises for Wheelchair Bound Seniors
Whether working as a well and able bodied person in a wheelchair, or as someone who is healing and working on building a new normal, there are a number of exercises to make the body strong, regardless of the circumstance.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” –Jimmy Dean
1 and 2: Dip/Shrug
The HUR Dip/Shrug machine is dual function. This maximizes the time spent doing the workout and minimizes the time spent getting set up with it. With smooth precision and complete safety, the wheelchair user of this machine can reap significant upper body benefits. The user simply moves the chair into position within the machine and locks it into place. With an extra wide arm pad for comfort and stability, the user grabs the handles and pushes down.
Sounds easy, right? It is.
This is the same motion used when getting out of, or shifting weight, in the chair. It works the pectoralis major muscles along with the triceps for a movement that strengthens some of the most important muscles for daily living.
Shrug: the handles are placed so that they start by the knees. The user grabs the handles with a straight arm and pulls them toward the head. This activates the biceps and the upper trapezius muscles.
4 muscles, 2 exercises, 1 champion.
3 and 4: Push up/Pull down
Need to grab something on a high shelf? Need to reach up and find what you’re looking for? Similar to the Lat Pull down, this HUR dual function machine does even more.
Dave says from a physical therapy standpoint, clinicians have a mythological tool box. When they look at a dumbell, they can see all sorts of different ways to use it. Dave wants to put more tools in the box. Dual function machines, like the Push-up/Pull down, are a brain child of that idea.
This machine works the shoulders. You push up and do an overhead reach. The pull-down portion mimics pulling oneself up in the morning. When these muscles are strong it allows for a wider range of motion and less assistance from staff or other caregivers.
5 and 6: Bicep/Tricep
While Dave says these are less important than the first two, they can’t be ignored. Adequate strength for the biggest muscles in your arms is what, essentially, moves you around the planet. Strong arms allow for improved movement, and with that, comes easily to do what you want and need. More energy. More activities. More enjoyment out of life.
Curling your arms for a bicep contraction and extending your arm for a tricep contraction is the precise isolation to give these muscles the definition you’re looking for.
7 and 8: Abdominal Crunch/Back Extension
Dave says when you have lack of mobility in the legs, you need to use all the other muscles available to you. The core muscles often get neglected in favor of the upper body and arms. It’s the core that offers you stability, power, and less back pain. A strong core enables you to sit up instead of pulling yourself up using your arms.
This machine isn’t to be used if the user has had a spinal fracture or has lost most of the use of the legs. If the user is able to transfer out of the chair onto the machine, that’s all it takes to get started. There’s a sturdy bar that goes over the top of the feet and locks into place. Once in position, the user can use the abdominal crunch and even a twist motion that works the transverse abdominous muscles. If the user can turn over, then the back extension movement can be performed for even greater results.
The wheelchair user that incorporates core exercises has superior strength along their midline, leading to better posture and a reduction in the likelihood of an injury.
Wheelchair users, whether they have none or some of the function of their legs, can reach remarkable fitness heights. These 8 exercises put together by Dave Lykowski, put the mobility restricted on a path of a greater range of motion, expansive use of their upper body and core, and an overall stronger form.
“Obstacles mean we have the freedom to chose whether we will be paralyzed by fear or whether we will fly.” -Kdrousin