Routine Recommendations for a Woman in a Wheelchair

OK, my girlfriend has been in a wheelchair since she was 7 years old and now, 22 years later, has enjoyed her first bit of exercise ever, a weights session. She is very strong already, but wants to lose some fat through working out regularly, and has asked me to help her find a routine. I’m fairly new to this all, but agreed to help, although there is not much that I can find in terms of specific weights routines for paraplegics. I was wondering what recommendations everyone had and whether a Chest / Back / Shoulders / Arms split would be the most sensible way to divide the workouts? She wants to be “healthier” (thinner, I would imagine), so what exercises and what rep ranges would everyone recommend.

There is one proviso, I suppose: shoulder injury would be the absolute worst thing that could happen, so what precautions in programming will she need to take?

OK, replying to myself here, but this was what I was thinking of. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. I am using a general 5/3/1 for the main lifts, because there are readily available calculator apps that she can use on her phone to show what’s next:

Chest Day

  • Barbell Bench Press - 5/3/1
  • Close grip bench press
  • Incline dumbell flys
  • Dumbell pullovers

Back Day

  • Barbell Pullovers - 5/3/1
  • Resistance bands face pulls - 100 reps
  • Inverted rows

Shoulders Day

  • Seated Barbell OHP - 5/3/1
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  • Dumbbell Bent Over Raise

Arms Day

  • ??? - 5/3/1
  • Bicep curls
  • Dips

Also, I will suggest 2 x cardio sessions a week of 20-30 mins HIIT on the arm-cycling machine on non-lifting days.

5/3/1 Barbell Pullovers sound pretty dangerous to me. I wouldn’t do it

A few members over the years have logged about their training in a chair. This guy was a wheelchair bodybuilder and this guy was a wheelchair powerlifter. Between the two of them, you should be able to cobble together some useful info.

5/3/1 is one way, sure, or you could consider something with more frequency like:
Mon: Vertical push/pull, moderate-heavy, 4-8 rep range
Tues: Horizontal push/pull light-moderate, 8-12 rep range
Thurs: Vertical push/pull, light-moderate, 8-12 rep range
Fri: Horizontal push/pull, moderate-heavy, 4-8 rep range

So basically: Shoulders (pressing), back (pulldowns), bis or tris; chest, back (rows), bis or tris; shoulders (lateral variations), back (pulldown variations), bis or tris; chest, back (row variations), bis or tris.

Remember that intervals on a hand bike could be as easy as X time forward, Y time backwards. Doesn’t just have to be alternating slow and fast.

Instead of separate cardio sessions, you could tack on 10-20 minutes of “whatever” after each lifting session. Maybe invest in some boxing mitts and gloves and let her hit the pads. Does your gym have battle ropes? Or medicine balls and room to throw them? Resistance bands for a circuit/complex?

Thanks for all the advice and ideas - and especially the warning about pullovers. I appreciate that. I also gotta say that the article on talking to her about lifting is the most useful thing I’ve read in a while. She’s going to see a specialist lifting coach who has experience with paraplegics on Friday, so hopefully she will be able to work with him until she’s confident enough to strike out on her own.

Thanks again.