However, before the exciting sports activities can start, a stretch and fitness work-out happens first. We use games to engage our athletes - for example, heading soccer balls, doing oblique crunches or finishing song phrases before coming up from a squat. Then we work on aerobic conditioning using options like obstacle courses or other movement drills, often with soccer balls. The point is to safely elevate the heart rate of our athletes for a few minutes. Even if the athlete is in a power chair we might emphasize something like raising their leg or arm or rocking while moving in the chair. Next we teach a soccer skill - for example, trapping the ball, learning to pass with the inside of the foot or a move. This is the last half hour of class; the focus eventually is to use the skill in a game in the last 10-15 minutes. Again, the drills are fun and driven by team competition. The drills can be relay races, juggling contests or even soccer bowling (kicking balls off cones). The final game is small sided so everyone gets a chance for many touches of the ball. Each session ends with a cheer.
Step 1: Exercises: Leg Presses & Abductors
With athletes with high tone and extremely tight hamstrings, we do either lying abductor splits or standing weight shifts.
Lying abductors is where with the athlete on his/her back the trainer sits by the athlete's feet and put their hands under the feet to provide resistance or to be a gliding aid as the athlete tries to work on abduction. We make sure the feet stay on our hands on the ground so hip flexors cannot be a part of the exercise. The legs have to stay straight through as well.
The weight shift exercise is demonstrated in the following two videos
3 sets of leg presses and 3 of bridges or abduction.
Step 2: Excercises: Pushups
sets while the others work on lower body.
We switch to sitting up with a trainer facing each athlete. We work on the opposing muscles to the push ups and perform low rows in a cross handed hand shake with the trainer offering enough resistance for fatigue and not failure. With athletes who have high tone (i.e. elbow flexion from Cerebral palsy or stroke) this exercise is done with light resistance and very slowly. This way the exercise doesn't contribute to negative bicep tone. 3 sets of each.
Step 3: Exercises: Oblique Crunches
Step 4: Exercises: Aerobic Drills, Walking
Step 5: Steps
Step 6: Conclusion
We've seen our athletes who work out 1 time/week see a change in perception (that our athlete begins to see themselves as just that - an athlete), some physical improvement, emotional, and cognitive gains. The work-outs are designed in concert with therapies which are current to each athlete.
The "carrot" we hold out for each athlete is the game of soccer and incorporate soccer drills and games into most of our sessions. We begin with core routines and then move to 4 compound exercises for opposing muscle groups of upper and lower extremities.
We try to perform 20+ repetitions with each exercise. Many of the physically involved athletes have lost slow twitch muscle tone/strength. Low weight/high repetition is more appropriate and safer regardless.
We spend the last half hour doing soccer drills. Often these are adapted to support our training goals - such as an outside kick for someone working on abduction or a head ball to the side with someone working on trunk control.
We finish with a game - usually we break the group into smaller teams so everyone gets a lot of touches.