One of the primary reasons we rely a limited a selection of exercises in Autism Fitness programming is the development of mastery. Too many exercises decreases practice with and exposure to each movement pattern. Rather than a “Let’s do fifty different exercises” approach, we focus on the essentials of squatting, pushing, pulling, hinging, carrying, and locomotion. Once the movement pattern is mastered at a basic level, being able to perform 10 body weight squats below parallel, for example, we have several options for progression or increasing the challenging qualities of that exercise. On of our favorites is adding movement to movement.
Adding movement to movement is also known as motor planning; being able to transition from one action to another fluently and with fluidity. In order for optimal physical education to occur, we, as coaches and instructors, want to ensure that movement quality (strength and stability) are intact before creating a more challenging situation.
In this episode of Movement of the Moment, Mary “The Juggernaut” exhibits her remarkable strength, stability, and memory with squats to overhead throws using a 4lb. Dynamax medicine ball. The pre-requisites for this exercise combination (M + M) are the ability to perform 10 body weight squats and at least 10 overhead throws. If an athlete has yet to master one of these exercises, it does not make sense or benefit the athlete to provide a more challenging variation, they are still learning the single version.
Once an athlete can independently perform two or more exercises, there is an opportunity to “link” them together, adding one movement to another. The squat to overhead throw is a perfect example, combining a low body strength exercise with an overhead power movement. As you can see in the video, Mary’s performance is exceptional and her entire body is working synchronously to produce a stable, healthy movement pattern on each repetition.
Adding movement to movement is a wonderful way to build strength endurance in our athletes (the ability to do a task longer), increase on-task behavior, and initiate short-term memory skills (within the exercise session). We often combine a low body exercise with an upper body exercise to promote movements that will generalize to everyday living and enhance ADL skills.
The answer to “how do we get to here?” is by enabling our athletes to master the basic exercise first, and then progressing by adding a second mastered movement pattern. It lowers the chances of physical compensation, and builds on skills that now have a stable foundation. And, you’ll likely find, they become quite fun.