Archive for “Variables” Tag

Youth Sports Training Program Design Considerations

 

Youth Sports Training Variables

By Art McDermott
 

The purpose of this article to present some of the key variables required for a successfully designed youth sports training and performance program. This topic always seems to produce some VERY strong opinions about what works, what does not and what the latest and greatest techniques may be.
 

Once all the sweating, lifting and marketing are done, sometimes it may be difficult to tell the difference between one sports performance facility and another.
 

With rare exceptions, even a young athlete’s parents do not know the difference between a good program and one that is not so good. As a strength and conditioning professional, it is your job to be able to clarify this.
 

At the end of the day, there is one thing that cannot be hidden from the light. Results. Physical Testing at the start of a summer program and then a retest at the conclusion of the training will always reveal the answer to the single most important question.
 

Did the youth sports training program work?
 

We cannot cover all the facets that go into a complete program in one article. This topic takes an entire semester when I cover it with the physical therapy students at UMass Lowell. However, I will do my best to present to most pressing issues.
 

There are nearly as many different approaches to youth sports training program design as there are coaches in the industry. However, here some of the factors that should be considered when designing an effective program.
 

* Time Frame – How long do you have to work with the athlete?
* Sport – What position does the athlete play?
* Gender
* Time of Year – Is this a pre-season program or an off-season program?
* Muscle balances and weaknesses – If any imbalances or weaknesses are present, are these the result of overuse, a lack of training, injury other factors?
* Level of Experience (Training Age) – Has the athlete be training for years or are they just learning to train or lift weights?
* Chronological Age – What level of physical maturity has the athlete reached?
 

Let’s examine why these elements are important before designing a youth sports training program:

 

1) Time Frame: This is the first question I ask ANY athlete that comes to our facility. How much time do you have to train (in weeks)? This will determine nearly every aspect of the program. How much corrective work can I do? What kind of strength level can we expect to achieve? Will we have time to properly periodize the program? Basically, can we do our job effectively? We have literally had parents call us and say, “My son has hockey tryouts in two weeks and we would like to get some training in. What can we put together?” Short answer: Not much.
 

2) Sport: This is a given. Very rarely can two athletes in different sports be on the same program. The physical requirements from sport to sport vary too widely. This is why having “Today’s Workout” posted on a board is a far cry from a properly designed program. A thorough coach should understand the needs of each sport or at least be adept at doing the research to gain this knowledge. The coach must then customize each athlete’s program accordingly.
 

3) Gender: This one is also fairly obvious. There are particular movements that MUST be in every female’s programs. Among them are: Knee and hip stability, hamstring work and upper body work. ACL injury is epidemic among female athletes but the incidence of ACL tears can be reduced by up to 70% according to some studies, if a proper program is put in place. A disproportionally weak upper body is usually the standard for females and should be addresses as well. As Martin Rooney says, “Who decided it as OK for females to do push ups from their knees?”
 

4) Muscle Imbalances and Weaknesses: While some imbalances may be genetic, many are a result of the trend towards early specialization in sport at too early an age. Examples are: Hip flexor shortening in hockey players, spine injury in gymnasts and figure skaters, dominant arm hypertrophy in tennis players, etc.
 

Muscular Weaknesses abound and have multiple sources. Most younger athletes are weak everywhere…unless they are one of those high-end gymnasts. Pinpointing muscular weaknesses allows the coach to correct them. Once the musculature is in balance, the entire “system” will be able to gain strength more effectively overall.
 

5) Time of Year: This refers back to point #1. The time of year will have a clear impact on exercise selection. Generally, as the competitive season gets closer there is a shift from general work to more transferable strength and power work.
 

6) Level of Experience: This is an easily overlooked parameter. If I am training a gymnast, she could be in her 8th year of high-end training and still only be 15 years old. On the other hand, you could have a 15 year old male who has ever been in a weight room but wants to try out for baseball in high school. Should these two be on the same routine?
 

7) Chronological Age: This one varies in a very important way from Training age. Actual chronological age looks purely at the physical maturity of the athlete. Keep in mind that one major factor impacting program design is onset or completion of puberty. If an athlete has significant androgens present in their system, additional intensity and volume options become available.
 

While not all-inclusive, I hope this article demonstrates the need for a properly designed youth sports training. From the testing procedures used to the energy system program used, making sure each program the right program for your athletes is vital for the athlete’s success as well as yours!
 

 

Designing Youth Training Programs

 

 

Youth Training Programs

Most Trainers and Coaches don’t have a clue.

 

That isn’t meant to sound horribly negative, just something I’ve
noticed a lot recently.

 

I was reading a textbook on Youth Training Programs recently that contained the following program for a high school football player:

 

 

a. Hang Cleans – 4 sets, 8 reps
b. Bench Press – 4 sets, 6 – 8 reps
c. Incline Bench Press – 4 sets, 6 – 8 reps
d. Front Pull Down – 4 sets, 8 reps
e. Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 4 sets, 8 reps
f. 1-Arm Dumbbell Row – 4 sets, 8 reps (each)

 

 

What do you think?

 

Is that a good program to you?

 

If you’re like me, it strikes you immediately as a horrible
program.

 

But let me ask you to take a second and answer this one question:

 

Why?

 

If you agree it’s a poorly designed program, what makes it so
bad in your eyes?

 

What I’m getting at here is the most important and critical
aspects of being able to write quality programs of your own.

 

Dissection.

 

The ability to assess and analyze a program based on three
critical factors:

 

 

1. Timing Requirements
2. Even Stimulus
3. Understanding Objectives

 

 

These three elements, and your ability to dissect them, is
going to change your ability to write effective youth training programs of your
own.

 

Let’s take the program from above and dissect it from those three
variables:

 

 

1. Timing Requirements

 

Here’s what we know.

 

The average 6 – 8 rep set takes roughly 45 seconds to perform.

 

Each exercise lists ‘4 sets’ as the objective.

 

There are six exercises in total.

 

Six exercises at four sets each, is a total of 24 sets for the
session.

 

At 45 seconds per, that totals 18 minutes of working time.

 

Roughly 2 minutes of recovery time will take place in between
each set, which amounts to 8 minutes of total recovery per
exercise.

 

With six exercises in total, that amounts to 48 minutes in
total.

 

Combined with the 18 minutes of total work load, this training
session will take roughly 70 minutes to perform.

 

Here are my concerns:

 

 

a. 70 minutes is far too long for high school training programs

 

b. 70 minutes does not include any sort of warm-up or cool-down

 

c. The work/rest relationship is roughly 1:3 – unacceptable

 

 

2. Even Stimulus

 

One point here, but it’s a biggie –

 

12 sets = pushing

 

8 sets = pulling

 

You don’t need to know much about athletic development or
functional anatomy to know that this ratio is entirely
unacceptable.

 

 

3. Understanding Objectives

 

Do high school athletes really need to perform a horizontal
pushing motion from two different angles?

 

Are bilateral movements from start to finish the best option
when trying to create a functionally fit and injury resistant
athlete?

 

Does the program outlined above seem way too much like a
standard bodybuilding program?

 

The key to creating effective training programs is to start with
objectives.

 

Yet ANOTHER reason I am not a fan of assessing biomotor abilities
in young athletes.

 

If you are intent on testing there vertical jump, bench, squat
and 40 time, than your youth training programs are going to naturally focus
on improving these elements – and be limited in other areas as
a result.

 

What do your young athletes need in terms of:

 

 

– Injury Prevention
– Age Related Factors of Development
– On Field Performance
– Correction of Body/Structural Dysfunction

 

 

When you identify your athletes’ needs, you have a much broader
and more complete understanding of the objectives necessary in
creating an effective program.

 

The point of this email is to show you that training program
dissection is critical in understanding how to create programs
of your own.

 

Not everyone can write programs that work well – it is a skill
that requires time, trial and error as well as practice.

 

But rather than starting with a blank canvas, use the 3 points
I mentioned above to assess your own youth training programs –

 

 

1. Timing Requirements
2. Even Stimulus
3. Understanding Objectives

 

 

I hope this helps!

 

 

 

Brian