T Nation

Special Olympics PL

I’m just about to start coaching a special olympics powerlifting club. I have very little experience with special needs people and almost all of my training has been as an olympic lifter. They will only train once a week, which makes their programs challenging to write. Anything to help me with this would be very appreciated.

Nice handle. :slight_smile:

My wife has coached various Special Olympics teams. I’ll ask her for any advice that she has. Do you have any specific questions?

You’ll be amazed at the effort these athletes put forth. You won’t let yourself slack off again after seeing it.

I don’t have any advice for ya on training those kids but I want to thank you for doing it. I’ve been involved with Special Olympics for the last few years. A good friend of mine has a nephew born with Downs. He is an incredible kid and watching him compete at the events and help out at the dragstrip just tears at your heart. You’re doing a great thing.

One training day per week? Sounds like your best plan then is to focus on teaching them correct form and little “tricks” to increase lifts and let their natural strength take care of the rest.

I reviewed some Dave Tate videos a while back where he demonstrates many of these tricks, like positioning yourself on the bench in a way that shortens the ROM and allows for instantly bigger numbers. Good info if you don’t already know it.

Here’s the review.

You can find some of these tips in his T-mag articles if you don’t have time to order the vids.


Outstanding!I know one thing,regardless of what you teach them,you will learn more from them, then they learn from you

So far I only need help with the training program. They havn’t started training yet. Unless anyone has some suggestions or better ideas, their inseason training will look like this for a while.

warm ups : hypers, abbs, chins.

  1. bench press
  2. bench assistance
  3. dead lift
  4. dead lift assistance

The assistance lifts will mostly be narrow grip bench, dumbell bench, rows, hack squat, rack pulls and pull throughs. There are more lifts I just did not include them. Since they don’t do squats I will include more hack squats than any other deadlift assistance lift. I’ll change the sets and reps schemes almost every week but they’ll usually lift pretty heavy.

When they are far away from a tournament I was thinking of two things : 1)dropping the bench press and dead lift for another assistance lift 2)when they begin to do the competition lifts again I’ll have them deadlift while standing on plates and shrugging at the end of each lift

I forgot something. I’ll have them do a few warm up sets in the bench and deadlift with 60% weights so they can concentrate on speed before moving to the heavier weights.

An acquaintance of mine coaches some special olympians in powerlifting.

They train 2-3 times a week. They do benches twice a week and deadlifts twice a week.

The assistance work they do is triceps push downs, biceps curls, and hyperextensions, and sometimes leg extensions and leg curls.

Their workouts are short, because they don’t have good focus.

There are three of them who train, and they will sometimes start talking smack to each other.

I’ve watched special olympics PL’ing before meets and made some observations and have some comments:
–Coordination tends to be bad with some. Solution: Just do a lot of the primary lifts, with submaximal weights.
– “Assistance” may not be necessary, but perhaps lifts geared toward a “general” fitness regimen that can be adopted before & after the meet might be useful.
–Develop confidence.
–I wouldn’t worry about bar speed, stick to form.
–Lastly, some of the guys & gals will have some skill, I would only get into more advanced stuff (i.e. heavy weights) with them.


if you only get to work with these kids once a week, you can still encourage them to do lots of pushup variations,(wide,close,clapping), bodyweight squats , etc. on their own.

good job and
good luck!