13 Advanced Core Stability Exercises for a Wheelchair User

13 Advanced Core Stability Exercises for a Wheelchair User

Core stability refers to the strength in the muscles of the abdominals and back, and the amount of control and balance between them. Our core supports our arms and legs, and we need stability in it to do a range of physical tasks. 

Many children with physical difficulties will have a weak core – either because of high tone, low tone, weakness or a lack of movement opportunities. 

On this page, we share some more advanced activities to help our children develop their core strength and stability. If these exercises feel too challenging for our child, we should work on the introductory core series first.

  • Core stability is key to the workings of your whole body. If you have good core stability, both your arms and legs will work better as they are attached to a stable base.

  • With a good core it is much easier to have good fine and gross motor skills (movement skills). 

  • A good core allows you to balance in different positions. It enables you to stay still and balanced while your arms and legs work (e.g. walking) or to stay upright when you are on a moving surface (e.g. a bus)

  • Our bodies are constantly seeking balance so having a good core allows your child to concentrate better as they are able to stay still.

  • If your child’s muscles are weak or if one muscle is weaker than the other, or if the messages to the muscles tell them to

     work too hard (high tone) or not hard enough (low tone) then it is possible that your child will have poor core stability and your child’s other movement skills will be affected.

  • For the child who is mobile on the floor, they may have some core stability but may move in fairly two dimensional ways (forward and back or side to side but not much rotation). This will mean that they may not have full core stability as rotation is a key element. 

  • A good core is a great starting point for any child (or adult for that matter) so working through these activities will be helpful even if your child doesn’t display any particular difficulties. 

  • Here are some core stability exercises to work through with your child. Go down the list and find the first level that they would find a little difficult. This is your starting point. Enjoy that activity until they can manage it well. If they can’t manage a certain activity, move them back a section or move onto the next section. You can be practicing several exercises/ activities in the same session to be more effective. 

  • Make sure your child is successful in their game as this will motivate them to continue. As you push them to get to the next level, they should be able to manage a few of their attempts to keep motivated-even if they are not successful at all of them.

  • Remember to praise the effort rather than the result to motivate them to keep putting in effort and not be put off if they don’t succeed. 

Here are some fun and exciting activities to try at home to improve your child's core stability

This is a fabulous position to work the core.  

  1. Start by getting your child to try maintaining a hands and knees position. It may be easier to start with your child sitting back on their heels and just balancing through their arms.

  2. As they get stronger, move their bodies forward in slow progressions, just a little bit further each time you try this activity until their shoulders are over their hands and their hips are over their knees. 

  3. In these positions the best things to do are to watch something on a TV or tablet/ iPad or to read books.

  1. Rolling is key to incorporate those rotation muscles. 

  2. Your child may need a little help to free their arms and legs but use toys to motivate them to roll over.

This is a brilliant activity for the core. Every time the child moves, the core has to stabilise to allow your child to lift an arm or leg. In some situations, your therapist may have advised not to do crawling so make sure you follow their advice.

  1. Try to encourage 1 leg and then the other rather than moving both legs at the same time. 

  2. To challenge the core further, practice crawling over objects or even up some steps. Set up an obstacle course (see our ‘Our Home’ video) to challenge them further and for lots of fun. 

  1. Once your child is pulling up to standing on furniture, try challenging their balance by standing them on a wobble cushion (a cushion filled with air) or use a sofa cushion to challenge their core a bit more. You could also try standing with 1 foot on a raised surface (a big book or box) to challenge them further.

  2. Ask them to reach to the side and down to pick up objects/ hit a drum/ post an object in a container etc. 

  3. Pushing a trolley, cruising along furniture and standing with their backs to the wall are also lovely exercises to strengthen the core before a child can walk on their own.

This position is slightly more difficult but works core muscles

  1. Your child lies on their back and lifts their legs to their chest and holds on to their knees with their arms. See if they can lift their head and hold up to 20 seconds in the ball shape without rolling over or dropping their head.

  2. Try playing ball in this position – keep your knees up but hold a ball behind your head and then throw it towards your feet. The adult can then hold the ball above the child’s feet for the child to come and pick up again. 

  3. In the same position, throw a ball in the air and the child needs to kick the ball up in the air back to you with both feet.

  1. On their hands and knees – reach 1 arm straight out in front of them in the air – you can challenge them to balance a beanbag or soft toy on the back of their hand to keep it up. Try and hold for 1 minute.

  2. Now try and lift 1 leg straight out behind them. Try and hold this for 1 minute. 

  3. Can they do an opposite arm and leg at the same time and hold it for 1 minute? 

  4. Try the other side. 

The superman position will help to work core muscle stability

  1. Lie flat on your tummy with arms up in front of you and legs straight behind you. Try to lift your arms and head up off the floor and hold for 20 seconds. 

  2. Next try to lift just your legs and hold for 20 seconds. 

  3. And now try to lift arms and legs at the same time. This may be easier over a gym ball.

  4. You could roll a ball back and forward out in front of you from this position as a rolling game or to knock down some skittles.  

  1. Your child should lie on their back with their feet on a gym/physio ball or on a cushion if there is no ball available against the wall. Move the cushion/ ball up and down the wall and then side to side. Try drawing a picture or writing their name.

  2. Lying on their back with their feet on the ball. The child should try to keep the ball still while you try to move it side to side. 

  1. Lie your child on their back with their knees bent and feet on the floor or on your lap. Encourage them to lift their bottom up and try and hold it up for 20 seconds. You can try to drive some cars or other toys under their bottom to help encourage them to hold it up. They can also try to hold a ball between their knees while they do this. 

  2. Lie your child on their back with their knees bent and feet on the floor or on your lap. Encourage them to lift 1 leg in the air with a straight knee or crossed over the other leg. Now lift their bottom and ask them to try to keep their bottom up for 20 seconds with their hips staying level.

  3. Lying on their back with their knees bent and 1 leg up. Lift their bottom and try lowering their straight leg down and up again. (The straight leg shouldn’t go lower than the other knee). 

The crab position is a great activity that you can make harder or easier.

  1. Sat on the floor and with their hands out behind them, facing their feet and with their knees bent (feet on the floor). Encourage your child to lift their bottom up and hold it so they make the shape of a table.

  2. Try walking around like this. 

  3. Make it more challenging by balancing a toy or even a ball on their tummy while they walk around in all directions.

  4. They could pretend to be different animals and make a game of it – try being a snake on the floor, or bear walk on hands and feet, or kangaroo jumps. Make an obstacle course and challenge your child to complete it as different animals. 

  1. Get your child to lie on their tummy and put their hands at chest level. Help them to push up so that their weight is just on their hands and their toes. Get them to hold this position for as long as they can. Make sure their bottom isn’t up in the air but that you also aren’t letting their tummy sag down. Drive some cars under them to encourage the child to keep it up. 

  2. Do this facing a sibling and try clapping 1 of their hands to one of your hands. See how many claps your child can do – try to get to 20 claps.






These should be done with help from an adult to make sure they are safe. 

  1. Sit on a gym ball and try and balance while you move your bottom around. 

  2. Get them to lift 1 foot off the floor and keep balancing.

  3. Get them to try and lift both feet off the floor.

  4. Get them to roll over the ball on their tummy until their hands reach the floor. Keep them walking forward on their hands until only their feet are still on the ball. Walk backwards until they are fully back on the ball. You can make this more interesting by picking up puzzle pieces and doing a puzzle or by picking up beanbags to throw into a bucket.

  5. Get them to lie on their back on the gym ball. Hold your child’s feet as they reach for an object on the floor behind the ball. Ask the child to bring the object back up to throw into a container. 

  1. Hold your child by their hips with their legs straddling you and their hands on the floor. Move around the floor picking up objects for as far as you can go. The wheelbarrow is another great way to get siblings playing and exercising together to make it more fun.

  2. Move your hands down to your child’s knees and walk around the room – picking up objects or playing a matching game or skittles. 

  3. If you can, hold your child by their ankles. Make sure they keep their bottom in the air and don’t hang their tummy’s down. Again find a game to make this more entertaining.  

  4. As your child gets stronger you could try to get from one end of the house to another – even trying going up the stairs. 

  5. You could also make an obstacle course to go around.

Thank you for visiting Gympanzees’ website. All information provided by Gympanzees is of general nature and for educational / entertainment purposes. It is up to you as the parent or family member to judge what is appropriate and safe for your child. No information provided by Gympanzees should replace any professional information and advice that you have been given and speak to your therapist or doctor if you are unsure of anything. Should you use any of the information provided by Gympanzees, you do so at your own risk and hold Gympanzees harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.

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