Fitness should be viewed as a universal right – everyone deserves to feel fit and healthy in their own body. But when certain individuals wander into a gym, they’re faced with a range of machines that they find difficult, if not impossible, to use.

Adaptive exercise equipment is designed to meet the needs of people who may otherwise be left behind in terms of fitness. It is something that any personal trainer should consider investing in, as it grants you access to a larger and more diverse pool of clients, and can add real meaning to your work.

In this guide we’ll take a closer look at exactly what adaptive exercise equipment is, who uses it, and how it can help to grow your personal training business.

What is adaptive exercise equipment?

Adaptive exercise equipment, also called adaptive fitness equipment or adapted exercise equipment, is fitness equipment for disabled or rehabilitating individuals that has been altered and adapted to solve the issues they may face working out on standard equipment.

Adaptive gym equipment spans a range of machines, equipment and tools designed to democratise exercise, granting people of all abilities the opportunity to improve or maintain their fitness, health and wellbeing.

Who uses adaptive exercise equipment?

Adaptive gym equipment is most commonly designed for people with physical disabilities that limit their ability to use standard gym equipment. These can include congenital disabilities (those that people are born with) such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome or clubfoot, and acquired disabilities such as limb amputation, spinal injuries or arthritis.

Adaptive exercise equipment is also used by people who are rehabilitating from an illness or injury, although this recovery tends to be guided by highly trained physical therapists. If you don’t have qualifications in this area, it’s best to leave it to the professionals, as the wrong movement can reaggravate or worsen injuries and issues.

5 examples of adaptive exercise equipment

What exactly does adaptive exercise equipment look like? It can range from extremely simple – basic items that you probably already own as a personal trainer – to highly customised, such as commercial gym equipment that has been redesigned to cater to a specific disability.

For a clearer understanding of adaptive exercise equipment, let’s look at a few examples.

1. Lifting straps/hook grips

A simple form of adaptive weight lifting equipment, weight lifting hooks and straps are ideal for anyone with a weak grip. They are designed to secure the hand around the handle of barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and more. They can also be used on cardio equipment like exercise bikes and rowing machines.

2. Cuff weights

Another adaptive weight lifting equipment solution for people with limited gripping strength, cuff weights see the weight hold on to you. Wrist weights, ankle weights and weighted vests are ideal for people who want to build strength but struggle to hold conventional weights.

3. Resistance bands

Here’s another example of adaptive exercise equipment that you probably already use as a personal trainer: if gripping strength isn’t an issue, but other body movements are, the simple resistance band can prove to be an incredible adaptive exercise tool. It is one of the most flexible pieces of fitness equipment available, able to work almost every muscle in a number of different ways.

4. Cable machines

Cable machines share a lot in common with resistance bands, in that they allow a user to work multiple muscles in multiple ways. An adaptive cable machine might feature a seat, or handles that can be strapped directly to the wrist or hand.

5. Adaptive cardio machines

Some exercise machines, such as recumbent bikes, cater to all levels of ability as standard. These exercise bikes are reclined to spread out a user’s bodyweight, are lower to the ground for easier access, and feature a large seat and backrest for extra comfort.

Then there’s the equipment that has been customised to meet a specific need. Adaptive rowing machines, for example, might trade the traditional two-handed handlebar (where the cable connects to the centre) for a one-handed handlebar (where the cable connects to either end), to be used by hand/arm amputees or people with limited mobility on one side of the body.

Should a personal trainer invest in adaptive gym equipment?

As a personal trainer, adaptive exercise equipment represents an incredible opportunity. It allows you to expand your pool of potential clients, offering your services to a wider audience than ever before. It can also bring a new sense of meaning to your work, as you help people who are so often left behind in terms of fitness.

If you do choose to go down the adaptive fitness route, to whatever degree, it’s wise to invest in high quality commercial gym equipment from the likes of Circle Fitness, Body-Solid, Concept 2 and Force USA. Commercial equipment is built for regular use for a wide variety of users, and if you choose your equipment wisely, those users could include clients of all abilities.

As noted in the examples above, a lot of standard gym equipment counts as adaptive fitness equipment, so you may already have access to much of what you need!

GymQuip: your home of adaptive gym equipment

If you’re a personal trainer looking to offer services to people with disabilities, we’re here to help. At GymQuip we’ve spent three decades helping personal trainers meet the needs of their clients, and our expert team is ready to share this knowledge with you.

We can identify the equipment you need, design a gym layout, deliver your equipment (five days a week, and for a flat fee of $99 if you’re within 20km of our store), and even install and maintain it (additional charges may apply). Check out our complete gym fitout service for more information.

We’re home to Australia’s largest fitness showroom, and we offer an even more extensive range of commercial gym equipment online. Visit us in-store, browse our website, or let us come to you to conduct an on-site consultation!

Get in touch with our friendly team today.