Basic Dumbbell Exercises for Wheelchair Users

Updated: Aug 26


Exercising as a wheelchair user can be daunting. Finding a wheelchair accessible gym, the right equipment, the right trainer and battling those looks which try to demean your very existence in the gym. While I would advise you to not worry about those demeaning looks and look for an opportunity to go to the gym if you can. However, while you are building your confidence to go to the gym, why waste time? STRENTOR presents basic dumbbell exercises that can be done at home on your wheelchair.


Dumbbell Bench Press: The dumbbell bench press is a mainstay of workout enthusiasts worldwide. It is a classic move for building a bigger, stronger chest. As such, it is often placed first in mass-building chest workouts.

  • Type: Strength

  • Main Muscle Worked: Chest

  • Equipment: Dumbbell

  • Level: Intermediate

  • Rating: 9.2

Benefits:

  1. Builds bigger pectorals

  2. Also works the triceps and deltoids, particularly the front heads

  3. One side cannot compensate for the other, as in the barbell bench press

Incline Dumbbell Row: The incline dumbbell row is an upper-body exercise targeting the lats (latissimus dorsi) and upper-back muscles, as well as the biceps. Performing it on an incline bench helps target the lower lats. Dumbbell row variations are usually performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-12 reps per set or more, as part of the upper-body or back-focused portion of a workout.

  • Type: Strength

  • Main Muscle Worked: Middle Back

  • Equipment: Dumbbell

  • Level: Intermediate

  • Rating: 8.8

Benefits:

  1. Builds upper-back size and strength

  2. Positioning on the incline bench enforces strict technique and limits momentum

  3. Works the biceps and rear shoulders

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: The seated dumbbell shoulder press is a popular exercise for building muscle and strength in the shoulders. The triceps also work hard in this lift. Many lifters find using dumbbells to be more comfortable and shoulder-friendly for this press variation than a barbell. This can be the primary pressing movement on an upper-body or shoulder day, or an effective accessory movement later in a workout.

  • Type: Strength

  • Main Muscle Worked: Shoulders

  • Equipment: Dumbbell

  • Level: Intermediate

  • Rating: 9

Benefits:

  1. One shoulder cannot compensate for the other, like it can during the seated barbell shoulder press

  2. The range of motion is not forced like it is with the seated barbell shoulder press

  3. Builds shoulder muscle and strength

  4. Particularly good for the front heads of the shoulder

  5. Triceps receive a good workout, too

Seated Dumbbell Biceps Curl: The seated dumbbell biceps curl is a popular exercise for building bigger biceps. While curls can effectively be performed standing as well, performing them seated can enforce strict form and perhaps boost the mind-muscle connection. Like most curl variations, these are usually performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-12 reps per set or more.

  • Type: Strength

  • Main Muscle Worked: Biceps

  • Equipment: Dumbbell

  • Level: Intermediate

  • Rating: 8.6

Benefits:

  1. Builds bigger, stronger biceps

  2. Great for building the biceps peak

  3. Eliminates lower-body momentum and enforces strict form

Seated Dumbbell Triceps Press: The seated triceps press is a popular arm-building exercise that targets the triceps with a single dumbbell held by both hands, extending it up behind your head. While you can go surprisingly heavy on this movement, it is usually performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-12 reps per set or more, as part of the upper-body or arm-focused portion of a workout. If you are going heavy, having someone help get the weight into position is a good idea

  • Type: Strength

  • Main Muscle Worked: Triceps

  • Equipment: Dumbbell

  • Level: Intermediate

  • Rating: 8.9

Benefits:

  1. Builds stronger and bigger triceps

  2. Great way to target the long head of the triceps

  3. Can go heavier than other triceps isolation movements

  4. Performing this move seated eliminates any balance challenge and allows you to focus on the triceps

If you have any questions on how to manage these exercises or need advice on equipment substitutes in case, you do not have a dumbbell and a bench, please reach out to me and I will help design a workout plan curated to your fitness goals, keeping in mind your living conditions.

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