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I am disabled, I use a walker and I'm practicing walking using elbow crutches. I can move my legs, I just can't balance so I have to use aids. My upper body is normal. I want to go to gym, to strengthen my upper muscles so I won't get tired when I walk on the crutches. And I want to strengthen my legs a bit, and my shoulders and back so I can walk better.

I already go do physical therapy but I'm not making any progress, I feel I can do better. Can I go to gym? Or is it impossible for people like me to go to gym?

@DavidR I talked to my pt, asking him if i can go to gym, he said i can, i didn't tell him that i'm not satisfied with what he's doing, i'm gonna try to have that conversion with him soon... So yes he said i can do gym if i want to, the question would i become "is there any gym workout i can do"?

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I don't know anything about your situation, but if you feel like you aren't getting what you need out of physical therapy, could you have a conversation about that with your physical therapist, and / or find a new PT if you think that is the problem? I'm not disabled, but I've been in situations where I flew the advice I was getting from a PT wasn't helping me recover from and injury, and a different PT worked out better... At any rate, if you're in PT you shouldn't start a new exercise program without coordinating with the PT first. –  DavidR May 26 '13 at 22:10
    
@DavidR please read my edit sir –  Fischer May 27 '13 at 20:36
    
@Fisher - thanks for the update... there may or may not be enough info for someone to help you, though. We still don't know what your condition is (did you injure your spinal column?, was this a condition you were born with?), and even if we did, people still may not be comfortable formulating an answer online. I'm not personally a physical therapist either, so I'm also probably not qualified to help. –  DavidR May 27 '13 at 22:49
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If your PT said that you can go to the gym, you could ask your PT what would be a good exercise program and equipment for you to start with at the gym. That way you could coordinate you workouts with PT to get the best benefit. –  BackInShapeBuddy May 27 '13 at 23:03
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@Fischer - It's absolutely vital that you communicate with your PT, especially if you feel that your needs are not being met. Nobody can work in a vacuum, so if there is something that you think you should be doing but aren't, or that you aren't progressing, then you NEED to tell your PT that. They may say "Ok, we'll try X and Y instead", or they may say "It seems that way, but we are doing A and B, then we will work on the rest, but we need to lay the groundwork". Also, for a PT to be effective, they need to know what YOUR goals as well. If you haven't had that conversation yet, it's time. –  JohnP May 28 '13 at 20:10
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Based on the information in your post, and particularly with the fact you talked to your PT and he gave the green light, there is nothing to prevent you from training at the gym. The challenge is figuring out what you can do. In this answer I'm going with the presumption that the balance problems has to do with strength and muscular stability rather than an inner ear vertigo type problem.

Start Small

If you can't stand, you can't squat or deadlift, so there goes some of the best lower body work options. I'd recommend no more than 2x a week when just starting out. When you feel confident with that, you can move on to a more typical 3x a week plan. The plan I'm laying out here is a relatively simple one, and just a starting place:

  • Leg press 3x5
  • Leg curl 3x5
  • Glute bridge 3x5
  • Incline press (dumbbell or barbell) 3x5
  • Curls 3x8-12

Just start at the lightest setting on the leg press and leg curl machines. Glute bridges should be done body weight only. If you can't do them just yet, work on what you can until you build up enough strength for the glute bridges. If you can, hold at the top for a second on the glute bridges. Same with the incline and curls--start light and build up.

If you hit all 3x5, you can add 5 lbs. If not, just stay at that weight until you can. The reason for starting at the lightest settings or weight is to build up momentum. There's probably a lot of stabilizer muscles that haven't really been used as much, so the lighter weight is going to target them first. The more muscle you have in your legs and glutes the easier it is to stand.

Build from there

When you feel like it's possible, you'll be making some alterations to the basic plan:

  • Leg press 3x5
  • Back extensions 3x8-12
  • Alternate: bench press/seated overhead press 3x5
  • Curls: 3x8-12

You can stick with the incline if you want, but this will give you a bit more variation. The back extensions work a bit more of your posterior chain than the glute bridges and leg curls.

By the time you can leg press your body weight for reps, you should be a lot more stable than you used to be. Ideally, you would build up to being able to do goblet squats, and then barbells squats up to your body weight. However, your journey is likely to be different. You may have to make some changes to the ideas I put up for you based on ability. If your balance issue is more of an inner ear problem rather than strength, you may never be able to squat--but there are things you can do.

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From Stumptuous.com, a recommendation for the disabled to get to the gym. The description lacks specifics but may be useful regardless:

For the record: I’m a 32 year old woman with multiple sclerosis. My experiences are, of course, bound by the particular quirks of my own crippled body and may not always be representative of yours

So, why hit the weights?

Because your body is just like everybody else’s.

It can be hard to remember because your illness or disability sometimes feels like your body’s defining characteristic, but remember that your body is, in the ways that matter, the same a everybody else’s. It wants to move, to act with purpose and focus and silliness and joy.

Your body does not care that it can’t do the same things other bodies can, or that it moves differently, or that other people might think it looks weird – it just wants to do what it can do, whatever that may be. What’s different about you is not nearly so important as what’s the same.

Your body, just like everybody else’s body, wants to be used. Use it.

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