T Nation

Autistic PL'er -- Need Help!


Hi everyone,

There's a mild-to-moderate autistic PL'er who trains at the one of the gyms I personally train at. He's competed in the Special Olympics and nearly qualified for the World Games recently. He's a great guy, but he's been doing the same crap program his "coach" gave him for four months.

I'm definitely not a power lifter, but I've studied and read enough articles to know this program he's on isn't much good, and looks more like a bad beginner's bodybuilding workout. Too much isolation, no relatively heavy work whatsoever. 3 sets of 10 all the way.

He wants to change his program, and even though he's not a client of mine I want to help him out. I guess what I'm looking for is a basic, safe workout he could do on his own since that's how he trains. Here's what I came up with, and please tell me if I'm way off. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm just trying to help the guy out a little. I don't plan to start in on the changes 'till next week.

Day 1
General warmup
Light set of bench
3x3 bench with 5 RM
3x18 "speed" deads
3x10 step-ups
3x10 reverse hypers
3x10 cable crunches

Day 2 (48 hrs. later)
General warmup
Light set of squats
3x3 squat with 5 RM
3x18 "speed" bench
3x10 semi-supinated DB incline bench
3xjust short of failure dips
3xjust short of failure hanging pikes

Day 3 (48 hrs. later)
General warmup
Light set of deads
3x3 w/90% of 1 RM dead
3x18 narrow stance squat
3x10 good mornings
3x10 glute/ham raise
Abs of his choice

It might be crap, I don't know. I know for certainty that it'd be better than his current program. Thanks for the input!


I don?t know how "autistic" he is, but if it?s only mild like Asperger?s syndrom you don?t need to worry about him training alone.

Why not try some of Waterbury's stuff? Or give him T-Nation's website, if autism is his only problem, he should be able to figure that stuff out himself.


I see what you're saying. There are a number of good hypertrophy programs like CW's that will help out a lot with strength gains, too. I just wanted to give him something a little more PL-specific that wasn't as complex (i.e., band/chain work, specialized equipment, necessity of training partners, etc.) as Westside. I could give him one of my go-to programs and he'd get a hell of a lot stronger than he would doing what he's currently doing. But that would be easy, and he could probably make more PL-specific progress on something different.


Why does he need bands/chains, specialized equipment, or a training partner to do westside? Many have done this alone without any of three items you mentioned above.

If you are concerned about him missing a lift then only have him go to 3RM and 5RM's where anyone can spot him. OR give him some set load/rep parameters for both ME days.


too much assistance stuff IMO

standing overhead press

heavy hams
heavy tris
upper back

if time permits it:
a little bit of core work

don't see the point in the "3x18" sets

just my 0.02


Thanks for the feedback guys. I threw in the higher rep stuff to help with recovery (get some blood pumping through the muscles), cardiovascular capacity and form. I figured it would do him good to practice the movements more than he is now. He is doing just 3 sets of 10-15 of squat, bench, and dead once a week. He has a pretty short attention span and can't spend more than 45 minutes in the weight room.

I suppose what I should do is consult with his coach. I don't want to change what he's doing too dramatically and make it too complicated when I can't be there with him. I'll consider dropping some of the assistance work, I suppose replacing it with a little more squat/dead/bench work? Could I incoporate ME on two lifts in a single day? Hmmm...

Thanks again for the feedback. A sample program (with about the same simplicity) would be greatly appreciated as well!


Have you seen CT's auto-regulating PL programme? I am doing this at the moment. Workouts last around 45 mins, you squat, bench and DL every workout, it has speed work, heavy work (not quite ME) and assistance work and basically it is working like a charm for me. Can't recommend it enough at the mo... pm me and I'll email you a copy, or else a search on this forum may bring it up... Sometimes I can't seem to find it on the net though..


for example:

day 1
squat (moderate stance, not wide)
warm up
then using some sort of a 4 week rotation for the work sets (ala Starr)

wk 1 eights
wk 2 fives with a 8rm
wk 3 triples with a 5rm
wk 4 singles with a 3rm

then something basic for hams: RDL, GM, SLDL for a few sets of 8 reps

then, if time permits it, a couple of sets of some ab exercise something like situps 2x20


bench same as squat but juggling the cycles around so that he doesn't end up doing singles for the three lifts on the same week.

then tris, any board or close grip variation for a few sets of 8

if he has time, some db tris work or pushdowns for 2x20

day 3

deadlift or DL variation same as squats and benches
some upper back like rows, chins or pulldowns for sets of 8
hammer curls or bar holds for the grip

day 4 (optional)
standing military press for 5x5 ala 2 warmup sets and three work sets of 5
then any kind of high rep beach work that he'd like to do, biceps, more abs, calves or even light upper back work

that's just what i would make him do....
i'm just trying to give you ideas....

good luck


Great advice.

I would just like to add something from personal expirience as I did something similar to this routine:

When doing lighter weeks (8 and 5 reps), you can try doing an "overshooting" warm-up - do a single or double at a heavier weight to "remind" yourself of competition form. Not a max attempt, just, say, a single with 3rm, then do set of 8.

Very often form with lighter weights and max attempt form can be different, so when you switch to lower reps you'll feel out of groove. This should help with that; and there's also that CNS priming thing.


Why not let him use Westside for Skinny Bastards.

Other than a true beginners template from Elite Fitness I feel that WSSB is an ideal program for an up and coming lifter who may still have some beginners problems.

It's got heavy work and the repetition day to help him grow a bit and to speed recovery.

Good luck.

You sir are doing a great thing.


You guys rock!

Thank you so much for the feedback! I'll be changing things around, and now I have some ideas as to what to do for another 4 weeks after this cycle.