Wheeling Forward

Pushing the chair in a straight line forwards is the first thing anyone needs to know when they get in a wheelchair. The challenge early on is to move both arms in sync and to use long strokes. The tendency for most is to do short pushes at the top of the wheel and sometimes lean backwards.

Start (Ready) Position - Form

  • Head up and eyes forward
    • Need to know where you are going at all times and where others are as well
  • Body leaning slightly forward
    • Depending on balance, core trunk strength and possibly disability related issues, the ready body should be over the knees to maximize the first stroke
  • Hands on wheels positioned at around 11:00 with palms on tires and fingers loosely clenching hand rim

First Stroke

  • Lean body slightly forward as hands move from 11:00 to 3:00 position and the arms
    • The length of the stroke may depend on balance, flexibility and coordination at first or on situational challenges (obstacles)
  • The stroke recovers with the hands quickly returning to the 11:00 position while the body gently sways back to a more upright position
    • This is called the “D” stroke (see video)

Moving Forward

  • Moving both arms in unison, propel the chair forward along a straight line keeping the stroke length consistent
  • As top speed is reached, the body position should remain steady


  • Using both hands, clench the tires at the 3:00 position while leaning slightly backwards
  • Return the trunk to the start position as fast as possible afterwards

Teaching Points

  • Watch for head dropping down
  • Too great of swing between down stroke and recovery which can be heard as the front casters and fifth wheel make loud noises
  • Chair is not moving in a straight line (could be because hands are not moving in a coordinated fashion or not looking ahead)
  • Body swaying right to left because of lack of balance (or imbalance) or strength (strapping or core trunk strength training required)
  • Stroke length is too short or too long
  • Hands grabbing hand rims only (depending on size of the hand, this may be the only option)
  • Slow recovery (use back muscles to pull shoulder blades back)
  • Recovery without using the trunk at all or too much


  • 1 handed (crossing over, without crossing over)
  • Vary the length of the stroke
  • Alternating hands moving forward and diagonally