Doing Pilates in a Wheelchair


I would like to ask your advice regarding the range of Pilates exercises that may be of assistance to a client in his 20's who has Cerebral Palsy.

Do you know of any resource material or experienced Pilates instructors in the Brisbane area who have knowledge of Pilates for clients with congenital disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy?


First off, there are many Pilates-based exercises that can be done from a wheelchair.

Using the back of the cadillac, or tower on a rehab style reformer the client can sit in the wheelchair and using the roll down bar and spring foam handles they can accomplish many exercises.

For instance, with the roll down bar you could do lat pull downs with a wide and narrow underhand grip. They may be able to do these with a slight hinge at the waist to get some abdominal engagement if they are able to sit forward in the wheelchair.

With the spring and individual foam handles you can work individually on strength and flexibility on each side of the body by pushing and pulling actions.

I like the straight arm pushes for core and tricep work, as well as scapular engagement. These are all done facing the machine.

You can also work the front of the body, chest, etc. by turning away from the machine and pushing the arms out from the chest either with the straight bar or the individual springs.

Because foot work and leg work is important as well. If possible I would try to transfer the client onto the Wunda Chair to use the foot pedal in various positions, preferably with the pedal split so each side is worked individually.

If this is not possible try using a small ball under their feet and have them roll it back and forth to engage the quadriceps and hamstrings, like a leg slide exercise.

Also, just massaging the bottom of the foot with a firmer ball, like a golf ball, would be helpful for flexibility in the foot.

Check out this article from a recent question on Pilates and Cerebral Palsy.

In my opinion Pilates offers a vast array of options when it comes to exercising people with congenital disabilities. Be creative and use good judgement, as most experienced Pilates instructors would with someone in this case.

I do not know of anyone specifically in Brisbane, but there are several well known studios in Sydney that may be of assistance or you can check with the Pilates Method Alliance for certifying studios and instructors in your area.

Best to you!

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