Non-Negotiables for Facility Design
When I get contacted by people wanting to start adaptive fitness programs it tends to be either someone in the fitness world who doesn’t have any experience working with individuals with disabilities or the opposite; someone in the special education field that wants to offer health and fitness opportunities for their students. There are a lot of nuances to coaching that go into running an adaptive fitness program; especially trying to scale it to the point where you have a dozen athletes training at once. Considerations such as how complex you make the programming to how you structure the workout so that certain athletes can be independently performing exercises while others receive coaching on the more technical lifts will dictate how much help you’ll need. Individualization is great; if you have adequate staffing.
In addition to the level of coaching assistance that you have, equipment is the other primary consideration that will dictate programming decisions. While our facility is outfitted with a lot of different equipment, this post will reveal what I consider to be the most important pieces to have to operate a high level adaptive fitness program. Before delving into the specifics, having an open floor plan where the coach is able to see all of the athletes training at once is of the utmost importance.
Airdyne Bikes ($400-$1000)
I consider the Airdyne Bike to be one of the most effective pieces of equipment for both steady state conditioning as well as interval training. The specific metrics that the bike provides (time, distance, speed, wattage, RPMs) and the way that the bike syncs to your heart rate provides you with a lot of data to monitor progress. The learning curve is low and the way that the machine integrates reciprocal arm and leg action provides an effective total body workout.
Steady State (continuous) at a specific heart rate – allows you to monitor whether speed or power output at a given heart rate is increasing as you become more fit
Fartleks – steady state rides with 5-10 second “bursts” every 2-4 minutes keeps the rider engaged
Intervals – how the intervals are structured depends on: what level the athlete is at, how willing they are to push themselves, and the goals and desired training effect of the workout. A novice athlete may not reach a threshold high enough to warrant a 1-3 minute rest, whereas it would be very hard for a more experienced athlete to repeat all-out 10-15 second efforts with less than a minute of rest in between each
Incorporated into a circuit of exercises
Functional Trainer/Dual Tower Cable Machine ($1800-$3000)
Accessible to all athletes and with an exercise selection that can strengthen all portions of the body, Dual Tower Cable Machines are an incredibly versatile and important piece of equipment.
Single Arm Cable Chest Press
Split Rope Face Pulls
If cost is a barrier, Strength Bands can be used to perform many of the same movements if you have objects to anchor them to at various heights.
Medicine Ball ($40-$150 depending on weight of ball)
Soft and wide Medicine Balls can be used for a lot of different exercises, as a means of loading certain movements, or as a teaching tool for exercises such as Squats and Presses. Due to the ballistic nature of medicine ball training (meaning an exercise where you let go at the end range of motion instead of decelerate the weight), it can be an effective tool for developing power.
Ball (Box) Squats
Rotational Scoop Throws
Medicine Ball Floor Press
Prowler Sled ($150-$300)
The Prowler Sled is another one of our favorite strength and conditioning tools. Similar to the Airdyne Bike, they can be used for total body strength training with not much of a learning curve. Lower Body strength training for our wheelchair athletes revolves around the Supine Prowler Sled Leg Press. Similar in motion to a Leg Press machine, this variation allows all of our athletes to train knee extension.
Prowler Sled Pushes
Prowler Sled Chest Press/Throw
Reverse Sled Drag
Prowler Sled Rows
Supine Prowler Sled Leg Press
Rowing Machines ($700-$1000)
Similar to the Airdyne Bike, Rowing Machines provide a full body workout that can train a variety of energy systems. However, compared to the Airdyne Bike, there is a greater technical demand and higher learning curve. Provided that you are familiar with the technique of the motion, it becomes a relatively straightforward movement to teach. While we’ve had many athletes stable enough to mount the machine unassisted, Concept 2 machines also disassemble in the middle, allowing wheelchair athletes to roll up to the handle and perform the motion with solely their upper body.
Steady State (continuous) at a specific heart rate – allows you to monitor whether speed, power, or distance covered in a given amount of time at a given heart rate is increasing
Fartleks – steady state rides with 10-15 second “bursts” every 1-4 minutes keeps the rider engaged
Intervals – how the intervals are structured depends on: what level the athlete is at, how willing they are to push themselves, and the goals and desired training effect of the workout. A novice athlete may not reach a threshold high enough to warrant a 1-3 minute rest, whereas it would be very hard for a more experienced athlete to repeat all-out 100-200m efforts with less than a minute of rest in between each
Incorporated into a circuit of exercises
Wall Mounted Ski Erg ($750-$950)
While not as popular in fitness centers, Ski Ergs offer a total body strength and conditioning option for all athletes; and are very popular amongst our wheelchair athletes. Workouts similar in structure to Rowing can be performed but grip strength fatigues faster, making it harder to perform for long durations.
Mini Bands ($3-$25)
Mini Bands of various tensions can be used for a lot of exercises or to cue better positions during popular movements like squats, push-ups, and rows. Many of the popular exercises to perform with these bands can target stabilizing muscles that are notoriously weak in our adaptive athlete populations.
Mini Band Lateral Walks
Mini Band Clamshells
Banded Hip Flexor March
Beyond the typical dumbbells, barbells, and plyometric boxes that we frequently use, these seven pieces of equipment allow us to run comprehensive strength and conditioning programs with athletes of all ages and abilities. If you’re interested in learning more about how you could bring adaptive fitness to your facility, email firstname.lastname@example.org.