elitefts™ Sunday Edition

A take away we always build into every seminar we do is to surround yourself with people who are better at something than you are. I just witnessed this first hand as Sheena Leedham took my oldest son outside to exercise.  He had a blast doing it and worked his little ass off. This is something I've spent years struggling with. - Dave Tate

It’s becoming a regular re-occurrence these days that my evenings result training by myself, for when it’s time to execute extra quadricep work at the compound, the guys are long gone. Surprisingly, one evening as I was mid-rep, near completion of a set of Bulgarian split-squats, Dave entered the gym with his oldest son, Blaine. I greeted them as they entered and Dave said hello as Blaine neglected to say hello. I quickly realized that Blaine was solely focused and attentive to his father and nothing or no one else.

For the next chunk of time, roughly 15 minutes in duration, they did a variety of exercises together: ball slams into the stomach (Blaine lying down on a bench as Dave dropped a weighted ball onto his stomach), seated machine tricep pushdowns, tug- of- war with a wooden stick (not sure if this was intentional), and overhead presses. Because my attention continued to bounce back-and-forth between my quads and their interactions, I missed a few exercises unmentioned, but I did notice that Dave concluded their session with some manual stretching. Despite missing a few of the exercises they completed, again blaming it on the destruction and exhaustion of my underdeveloped quads, I couldn’t help but notice the relationship and bond between the two of them.

Blaine was most receptive towards Dave when Dave was playful and humorous. For example, Blaine especially enjoyed when he couldn’t determine when his Dad would drop the weighted ball onto his stomach. He would brace his stomach hard, expecting his Dad to drop it at any moment. Dave always waited until Blaine least expected the ball to drop, and then would drop it. During these moments shared, they were laughing, smiling, and sweating.

Amongst their bouts of fun, Blaine would ask, “Are we done yet?” Dave in a calming voice would reassure and remind Blaine that they soon would be done, but only after they completed some more work. As a spectator it seemed as though Dave was not looking to introduce anything new to his son, but just continue to have Blaine complete his exercises, all which seemed to be familiar and at a comfortable intensity. Dave was cognizant of when to correct form and when not to be too critical. Once Dave felt they had done enough, and as Blaine convinced him they had done enough, Blaine earned some computer time and Dave began to train on his own. I, now done with all quad work, began to do some cardio.

Up until this point I had not met Blaine, but had numerous conversations with Dave that included Blaine. As a father with a child with autism, Dave wants the best for his son; he wants the world for his son; a world that also balances movement, strength, exertion, all with a self-motivating willingness to be active.

Fully aware of his intentions and desires for his son, I used my cardio time to brainstorm and analyze what I observed as Dave and Blaine interacted. Although it was only a small chunk of observational time, I saw what worked, what didn’t, what Blaine was receptive to and non-receptive to, how Dave responded to a multitude of behaviors, and how they used the surrounding space and equipment. I also saw the motivating strategies Dave implemented throughout, including how Blaine dealt with success and strain.

In between his working sets, Dave would use his rest time to “rough house” Blaine, intermittently spinning his chair, placing his fingers through his hair; ultimately letting his son know, “I’m here and I love you.” Blaine would be caught off-guard, take his eyes off the computer, look up to his dad, smile, and without a word communicate, “I know you’re here Dad, I love you too.”


Still on the treadmill, on an incline climb, I began to look around and think of things I could incorporate if I were to create a program for Blaine. I saw a large stability ball in the corner of the gym. I thought of many different things we could do with this piece of equipment alone. After 20 minutes of cardio and brainstorming, I then sat down next to Blaine at the table.

I didn’t say anything as I sat down. He never looked up acknowledging my existence, but continued to work on his computer. I rummaged through my training bag and found a piece of paper, half- written on, with a previous training template. I got a pen, and finding just enough space, I wrote, “Do you want to play catch?” I then broke up the silence by tossing the torn sheet of paper his way and said, “Hey Blaine, read this!” He read the note and his eyes lit up. He then looked at me and answered quickly in pure absoluteness, “In a few minutes.” I assured him that when he was ready, I was ready.

As soon as he placed the computer down and stood up, I took this as my cue for readiness. Together we walked over to the area of the gym where he knew there are a lot of balls: stability, kettle, pummel med, sand-filled, and brass-plated. I grabbed the large stability ball and suggested he follow me outside. We walked outside and there began to play catch.

Here’s what we ended up doing for the following hour:

My choice:

Catch with the Stability ball

  • Kicks x 10
  • Throws (overhead) x 10
  • Bowling passes x10

Blaine’s choice:

  • Begin by facing each other, roughly 1-foot apart. With stability ball in hand, pass the ball back- and- forth. After each successful completion, take a step back. *We continued this game until he reached the semi-truck, and I reached the metal fence (approximately an 80-yard distance).

My Choice:

  •  Superman’s x 20 *Superman’s are what I call when you lay prone on a stability ball; the ball underneath your stomach, your hands stabilizing your upper body. Begin the movement by “walking out” forward, using your hands to move and stabilize, until the ball is mid-thigh, and then “walk back” with hands to starting position. This entire movement is considered 1 rep.

Blaine’s Choice:

  • Static stomach holds x 60 seconds x failure x failure *Much like the Supermans, but instead of “walking back” he held the plank position for time.

My choice:

  • Seated Stability Ball Bounces x 20

Blaine’s Choice:

  • Seated Stability Ball Bounces x 575 *Yes, you read that correctly.

Game choice from Blaine:

  • Move until a noise is made and then freeze x 4

Blaine’s Choice of Obstacle course: (this was so much fun!!)

  • 2x of the following:

* Table climbs x 2

* Spins x 12

* Run to dad’s truck x 1

* Tap dad’s truck x 12

* Run back to table

At the end of our session I told him that I had fun and that we should do this every Tuesday. He was covered in sweat and was proud that he “exercised.” He mentioned that he probably lost around seven pounds tonight. Dave praised his efforts and positively said, “Blaine you exercised today!” Dave made sure that he said thank you to me. We officially ended as he gave me a high-five.


Blaine is very playful and likes challenges. Overall, he likes to play games and have fun. He is also very competitive, for there were many times he wanted to race, beat his previous time, or surpass a previous set of reps. As he was set on beating his time or previous amount of reps, I encouraged him in his efforts, but also kept things light and made jokes throughout. I also kept a fine balance between being critical of his form/technique, and just allowing him to move as he naturally moves.

I feel the structure of my choice and his choice worked out as well. You see, from above, that his creativity, many times, bridged from my choice. It was through the structure it was safe for him to create because eventually we’d come back to something definite. And in the end, his choice was equally important as mine.

It was refreshing to see that he is accepting of learning new exercises and is patient when I demonstrate and model proper technique. Is he quick to rush through exercises after I’m done modeling them? Yes. Does his form break once his strength lessens? Yes. Will he shut down if I only hone in on what needs to be corrected? Yes. Therefore, it is important that I orchestrate a fine balance so that he continues to perceive exercise as pleasurable, and continue to progress while becoming stronger.

Moving forward:

I feel he would do best with approximately 60 minutes of work. I too think he would benefit from a more structured outline, perhaps seeing the plan a day before we execute it. Therefore, he’ll have expectations coming into the workout and have a sense of what I’ll be presenting to him. This outline will also be nice to use midst workout, as we can cross off things as we go or use it as a reference point. As we continue, I’ll continue to sophisticate the program, incorporating play, strength exercises, conditioning, coordination, balance, grip work, fun, choice, sport-specific skills, and challenges.

Be on the lookout for more reports from Sheena, as she continues to program for Blaine.