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How to Adapt Your Training Plans for Clients with Limited Mobility

This blog was written by our inspiring ambassador, Mike Newman, who has been training with us to become a personal trainer. For more information about his journey, click here.


Being able to train a client recovering from an injury or with a disability can be an incredibly rewarding part of a personal trainer’s career. As long as you are qualified to do so, being able to help someone take their first steps again and regaining a sense of independence can allow you to see the difference fitness professionals are able to make in a person’s life. This is something that our ambassador Mike Newman was able to experience first-hand when he was recovering from a severe motocross accident at Salisbury Odstock Spinal Rehab centre:

I met a lot of people who had unfortunate accidents like myself…they weren’t motivated and had given up…I helped one of my friends that I had spent time with to believe in himself and motivated him to keep working hard, to never give up. Sometime after we had both left the rehab centre, he sent me a video and he was walking! His message read “Thank you for giving me hope and for helping me get here”. That for me was worth more than anything money can buy.

It is important, however, to approach all clients with understanding and sensitivity, especially if they are new to, or returning to, exercise. Mike has written this helpful guide as to what to do to make sure clients feel confident and safe to return to exercise.

This blog includes:

Get to Know Your Client


“First things first, when working with any client for the first time, it is always essential to find out as much information about their health history as possible.

Using a lifestyle questionnaire and PAR Q + is a great way to start. It is imperative to be very thorough with clients with mobility problems and determine if they have any muscle imbalances, postural problems, or additional mobility restrictions that may not have initially been declared.

Understanding and Identifying Restrictions


Often, if the client is compensating for not being able to move their bodies normally, some muscles or muscle groups will be under much more strain than others. They could be much tighter and be inadvertently restricting movements. Finding this information out early will give you the best chance of prioritising the essential areas that need developmental stretching.

Identifying and prescribing mobility exercises early on will have a positive knock-on effect as the muscles lengthen. For example, if a client uses a wheelchair every day for lengthy amounts of time, their hip flexors will be extremely tight and become shorter. If these muscles are not stretched, they will be so tight that they will pull on the lumbar spine, inhibiting potential mobility. This could also contribute to poorer posture, potential pain, and even Lordosis.

The knock-on effects are like a chain reaction. Identifying problems like this can make a massive difference to the clients’ daily living, potentially reducing the client’s pain levels if rectified. This highlights just how important it is to have the correct level of education. Not only to identify the problems but to then adapt your training based on your findings.

Being Understanding and Adaptable


There is no “one size fits all”. Each client will have their battles; they can be physical or mental, or a combination. The client’s goals may be very different from a non-disabled client. Being sensitive, understanding and having realistic expectations will be crucial when gathering and discussing the information.

Most of the clients will be out of their comfort zone and potentially anxious. If the client is aware of their limitations, highlighting them could cause distress. Using positive terminology, body language and being a good listener will help the client feel at ease and help them be on a level with you.

When it comes to your programming or coaching, it would be a great idea to have your progressions and have two or three regressions of the same exercise. If a client “can’t do it”, that could negatively impact the session or the client.


Being armed with variations and alterations to the equipment available to use for an exercise will be an asset.

For example:

  • Suppose a client is in a wheelchair and want to perform a single-arm row with the dumbbell.
  • It’s uncomfortable for them to lift the dumbbell and assume the exercise position.
  • In that case, replicate the exercise with a resistance band and remove the load and discomfort.

Having multiple progressions and regressions can benefit you massively.

To Conclude


How the client will perform with mobility issues will vary much more frequently than a non-disabled client. One week they may be able to perform an exercise you have prescribed with ease, and a week later, they may be having a bad day and be much more restricted. Having alternative variations and the confidence to be creative with exercises means you can better meet the client’s needs. This can help to make it relative to their goals according to how they feel at the time.

Preparation and forward-thinking skills are essential”

To find out more from Mike, read his excellent guide on why you should get back into fitness with a disability or recovering from an accident here.