When one of our Autism Fitness athletes demonstrates that they are capable of performing an exercise independently (without prompting and with quality form), we can progress. A progression is the addition of a greater challenge in an exercise. Depending on individual goals and what other skills have been developed, we have multiple options for progressing each exercise.

For strength and stability exercises, we most often aim for more repetitions or using a heavier weight. With warm-up and dynamic movement, we can start combining exercises and movements to create motor planning activities that require focus, attention, and being able to differentiate between similar exercises (in this case push and overhead throws).  Progressing an exercise only makes sense when the athlete has mastered the prerequisite skills. For example, If “Curtis” could only perform five push throws, we wouldn’t start adding overhead throws to the mix yet.

Until he could perform 3 sets of 10 push throws, what we call ‘Baseline Criteria for Mastery,” we’re not adding anything. We need to first build his ability to master the push throws and then we can talk about progressions. There is no (none, zero) reason to progress when the athlete has not yet mastered the baseline skill. Doing otherwise could result in underlying movement deficits and compensation at the expense of “doing more” or “doing it different.” Remember the goals; develop the skill to independent levels and enable generalization to novel situations, people, and environments.

In the dynamic movement sequence featured in this video, our Autism Fitness athlete has already mastered push and overhead throws, along with lateral steps. Given the green light, we can begin to incorporate these exercises together as a sequence that can help develop motor planning, reaction skills, lower body and trunk stability, locomotion, upper body power, and more.

Building baseline skills (our movement foundation) enables us and our athletes to progress in meaningful ways. When an athlete can perform an exercise or movement correctly in a variety of scenarios we know that they’ve “got it” and that it will very likely have some beneficial impact on their quality of life and independence in both the short- and long-term.

Watch 'Med Ball + Lateral Step' Progression