Strength is proactive and preventative. And for some reason it is commonly missing or misapplied. Part of this has to do with programming and exercise selection.
Why is a coach or instructor choosing the exercises in the program?
Are these exercises appropriate for the goal? Are the goals appropriate?
Recently I started working with an athlete whose previous trainer had him doing tricep kickbacks, lunges, and all manner of isolation exercises. I’ve not seen the entirety of this program, but it was fairly evident most of the exercises that would be of greatest benefit were never included. His posture and performance told the story.
Most of the athletes I’ve assessed over the past 18 years share common strength deficits, and yet it seems many are willing to train around these issues instead of attend to them directly. The irony is that an effective programming approach is relatively simple; Focus on strength-building exercises in the major movement patterns.
Squat. Push. Pull. Carry. Hinge.
Is there more to movement and physical performance? Of course. But we start with these. They are the building blocks. It’s akin to working on the window panes when the foundation for the house hasn’t been set.
I have a phrase for this type of training.
“Every which way but strong.”
Which is unfortunate because a basic strength program with the movements listed above and appropriate regressions can do wonders for the ASD and special needs populations. But it seems there a lot of confusion around programming variables and what the hierarchy of movement actually is.
“We need to work on balance”
Yes. You need a base of strength to balance.
“We need endurance and cardiovascular conditioning”
Which is easier when the movement pattern isn’t breaking down due to low tone and fatigue.
“We need to work on coordination and crossing midline”
Bypassing proximal strength to attempt distal performance will always be a backwards approach.
A stronger individual is going to be a safer, more able individual. And that starts with basic movements. We’ve never made any secrets about the exercises we use in Autism Fitness programming because they’re basic strengthening exercises. Where we do employ expertise is in the progressing and regressing, coaching and cueing of these movements.
The video below features one of my new athletes at Metro Fitness here in Charlotte, NC doing standing band pull-downs and Sandbell presses for the first time. Keep in mind that successful strength movements share these qualities:
– Control of the movement throughout
– Rooted feet
– Firm grip on the implement