Frequently Asked Questions

Since my injury, I have lost muscle tone in my stomach area. What can I do to try and get a flatter stomach again?

This is one of the most common questions I¹m asked from disabled people who use wheelchairs, and also asked by many others as well.

After paralysis, and depending on the level on the injury in the spinal cord, the muscles below the level of injury atrophy or become weak due to lack of nerve stimulus. Obviously, every single injury and circumstance is unique, and there are many reasons why people ask me about getting flat abs. or a toned stomach while doing seated exercise.

There is no single trick or movement that will work for everyone, however, from teaching over a thousand people in wheelchairs over the years, and also teaching people with many varying disabilities and conditions, my students and I have found some things that may help towards getting some tone and shape back in the stomach area.

€ Posture ­ how you sit may affect how the abdominals are recruited during movement. Try not to slouch, and during movement try to lift through the torso and pull the body upwards as much as you can. There are also different ways to sit in your chair ­ for example, many of my students sit with their legs straddling their chair, out to the sides, which allows the arms to reach out further in space, thus requiring the use of more of the torso muscles, instead of just the arms
€ Breathing ­ even breathing properly during exercise will use the abs. as well ­ even doing slow moves, and also during stretches, really breathe and pull up, and exhale slowly coming down
€ It is not just arms! ­ many people think since we are sitting in chairs exercising, all we are doing is moving our arms. Try to think of the arms as ski poles for a downhill skier ­ use the arms to reach out, reach in front, reach to the sides etc. ­ Even leaning side to side with the arms down, will use ab muscles ­ if you can lean forward on your knees, using your chair for balance, and pushing yourself back up, you are using abs.
€ The ŒAerobic Component¹! ­ Try to make yourself work a little harder for a little longer over time as you do the movements ­ the more energy you use, the more calories you will burn ­ by doing some form of aerobic work every day, AND by doing movements that use as much of the body as possible, the abdominals will be used

€ AB moves! ­ These are some of the actual abdominal strengthening moves I¹ve created:

CRUNCHES ­ easy to do in a wheelchair or any chair, stool etc. ­ crunches may be done in the front, from side to side, slowly, or in groups of two¹s and fours, in circles to either side, and at angles towards the knee ­ bend the elbows, touch your fingers to your shoulders, and gently but with some force, pull down towards the legs, gently curving the spine forward, and come up to the neutral sitting position ­ if you can raise your arms above your head, try pretend you are pulling a bar from just behind your head, just like a crunch machine at a health club.

ABDOMINAL CIRCLES ­ these can be done in the middle position, or to each corner ­ sit just as straight as you can, and gently move your stomach area around in a circle one way and then the other ­ you can also lean to one corner towards a knee and do circles in both directions, and then do the same to the other corner

SIDE-TO-SIDE STRETCHES ­ lean out as far as you can to each side of your chair with an outstretched arm ­ if your balance is bad, put a hand on one wheel, or side of a chair and reach out

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING ­ follow the move as demonstrated in the booklet

SWEEP and REACH ­ follow the move as demonstrated in the booklet

€ Consistency! ­ Lastly, try to be as consistent as you can in your day-to-day life about getting some form of continuous movement. Your body will adapt as you train it, and even though this may be the hardest part for most of us, it is one of the most important aspects.

There are many more moves that use the stomach/abdominal muscles from a seated position. I hope this gives you some helpful ideas!  Please contact us if you have any other questions about any of my movements, as I know it is difficult to explain in writing.

How often should I do the video?

Since every BODY is unique, please do NOT begin any exercise program without getting clearance from your doctor or medical professional. We recommend doing the video, or any part of it about three times a week. We all have off days, so don¹t be hard on yourself. Pace yourself, and only do what you can. Remember, even if you only do pieces of the video at a time, some movement is better than doing none at all!

I have very bad balance problems, so what can I do to make it easier?

Balance is another common problem with many disabilities. My balance is not good at all, since my level is T3. Some of my students look like they have no real balance issues when you see them moving, and here are some reasons and suggestions. When doing movements from side to side, just switch hands. If the movement requires you do take both hands off your chair, modify the move and just use ONE hand, while hanging on to your chair with the other. Also, you may try using a Velcro strap around your body, or also around your body and chair.

What do I do if I can¹t reach up high to complete a move?

You don¹t have to do the moves at the high level at any time during the tape. My system is made up of what I call the Œhigh-low level system¹. All you do, is follow the move, and do it at whatever level you can ­ that is part of why these moves are easy for everyone. For example, on the high crossovers, if you can only reach at a low level, that is fine! You just pick the level that you can do with each move.

I¹m not in a wheelchair, so what is the best kind of chair to use?

For my non-wheelchair students, we¹ve used many types of chairs, stools etc. for this class. If you use a conventional chair, and you have good balance, then try to use one without arms. If you need arms for balance and support, that is fine. Remember, you can modify your sitting apparatus and sitting position, just as you modify the movements! Another idea is to sit on a padded stool. I¹ve used many stools over the years, and they work wonderfully. If you use a stool, make sure that the height from the floor is appropriate for the length of your legs. You don¹t want a stool too short if you have long legs, or vice versa. You want to maintain a nice, straight posture before you begin to move. Also, stools allow you to sit with your legs out to the side, as if you are straddling it. This allows you to reach out much farther than if you have your legs together in front of you. Another idea, is a bench. Again, the bench must be tall enough for the length of your legs. You would put the bench lengthwise towards the video, and straddle it with the legs on either side, and you may want to put a cushion under you for comfort.

Should or can I use wrist weights while I do the video?

This is another very good question. In most standing aerobics classes, students don¹t use weights as they interfere in the actual linking of the moves. In seated aerobics, there is so much to learn at first, and since we use our hands and arms in completely different and unique ways from a standing class, they are quite occupied! Over the many years, I¹ve found that my students who have tried using light weights lost some of the speed they gained during movement, and had trouble linking moves, which takes some of the fun out of it. Also, many people have balance problems, and if they are given a weight to hold they may fall over! However, since people develop at completely different rates, some of my advanced classes have used light wrist weights in certain cases, and adding extra resistance does increase certain kinds of strength in certain training situations.  For purposes of this video, we recommend using the weight, speed and forces of your own body. If you have more questions about weights, or any other devices like bands etc., please contact us and we will be happy to discuss it!

If you have any questions at all, please contact us and we will be happy to dicusss them!