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Building Movement Skills and Increasing Tolerance in the Same Activity

The title on this post sure wasn’t catchy, and I may actually use it as a placeholder until I think of something better (which will likely be at 2am when I will scribble it down nearly-legibly on the pad I keep in my nightstand drawer). But  I did want to get this idea onto the blog.

Goals: Increasing both tolerance to extended period of activity AND more opportunities to perform specific movements

This afternoon my athlete was having practically none of it. He was compliant with the exercise activities for about 20 seconds and then would begin to wander off. He was also providing his personal array of pre-meltdown behaviors, including some low grunt/hum noises and drawing in the air with his index finger. I realized that I had limited time between breaks to get some fitness done.

I was focused on him performing three activities: A dumbbell power snatch (bend knees and arms overhead with a pair of 7lb. dumbbells), a set of 25 kettlebell swings, and squats with an 8lb. Sandbell behind his head.

Within the session I wanted to gradually build up his tolerance to extended periods of activity (with a new athlete this is typically a longer process, but Fidele and I have been working together about 9 years so I can push things a bit).

In the first “series” I had Fidele perform the power snatch, then gave him access to a break, where he wandered around bouncing a ball in the kitchen.

In the second series, He did the power snatch followed by kettlebell swings. The third went snatch, swings, Sandbell squats

After the first series, and break, I had him perform the whole sequence twice before getting access to a break. I did give him a longer break (about 3 or 4 minutes) after the second series, but he had done a good amount of exercise.

This balance between instruction and autonomy provides the athlete with enough instruction to build the skill, and enough secondary reinforcement (a preferred activity or time away from the non-preferred activity) to make the situation livable. There’s no exact ratio, but I usually start with about 30 seconds on-task to 1-2 minutes break/reinforcer time and try to balance the time…eventually. This progression allows an instructor to work on multiple goals in different areas of ability (Physical and Adaptive) without anyone losing their minds.

Live Inspired,


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