Kids Training Programs Guest post by Phil Hueston
Most sports performance kids training programs (yes, maybe even yours) have 2 fatal flaws:
1) they don’t look anything like sports
2) they’re B-O-R-I-N-G!
Consider these questions:
- Is a soccer game periodized?
- Do football games proceed in sets of 6 plays followed by 1-2 minutes of rest?
- Is the “work” in a baseball or softball game predictable and programmable?
- Are basketball, hockey and lacrosse games organized into consistent, definable work-rest ratios?
- Don’t all athletes like training more than playing a sport?
The answer to all of the above is NO. Yet many Youth Sports Fitness Professionals still prepare kids training programs and athletes for competition and performance in rigid, over-organized fashion. Many separate SAQ training from power training, core training from strength training. Some programs still train body parts individually, just like “old-school” bodybuilders! Yikes!
Reality check: most sports are a disorganized-looking combination of multi-speed, multi-joint, multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary, multi-modality movements taking place in completely chaotic, high pressure environments. Lather, rinse, repeat until the whistle blows or the horn sounds.
Want your training to look more like sports? Try more chaos and less “structure.” Don’t throw out the science. Don’t ignore proper form instruction. Just do it within the course of a fast paced, chaotic training session. The body functions as a single unit on the field, court, mats or ice. Why not train it that way? Sports are played in a competitive, pressure filled atmosphere with a high expectation of performance. Why not add some of that to the Sports Fitness session?
Let me reiterate: always apply scientific training principles to work done with athletes. Movement instruction, correction and reinforcement should be done whenever needed or appropriate. Pushing, pulling, rotation, level changes, deceleration, lateral and transverse movements and forward/backward ambulation are all key to effective sessions/programs. Once you establish the exercises or drills you want to use to reinforce and improve these patterns and the athletic skills they support, it becomes a matter of how you (dis-) organize your individual sessions that make all the difference!
Inject fast paced decision making into the process. Ask them to pay attention to proper weight progression, technique and even working as a team while they’re in the middle of trying to get a fixed amount of work done in a (seemingly) ridiculously short amount of time. Rapidly change the completion parameters in the middle of the workout. Doesn’t that sound more like “game conditions?”
While you’re busy focusing on joint stabilization and core activation, throw in a group activity to mix it up. Add 100 jump rope touches or 20 cone shuffles per participant to be completed by the group in a limited time while they complete their core/joint stabilization work! When they ask how you want it done, tell them “you guys figure it out!” THAT’S GAME CONDITIONS!
Your session and program plan need organized pre-hab and tissue preparation and a good movement based warm up as a group. After that, cry havoc and loose the dogs of war! Kids, especially high school athletes, love a challenge, especially one they’re not getting anywhere else. Throw it at them! They’ll respond!
You’ll see improvements in workload capacity, attention to form detail and even the level of athlete compliance and retention when you begin to think and program with chaos in mind.
Speed and strength improvement takes place on a more accelerated curve than in any traditional lifting program. Why? We’re requiring excellent form at high power levels with seconds to rest between activities. It’s a “vertically loaded” training system that improves all aspects of the athletic skill set: strength, power, core stability/strength/power, SAQ, balance, coordination, mental acuity and tactical decision making.
Incorporate a variety of tools, from bodyweight, dumbbells and Kettlebells to ropes, tires, sleds and everything in between. Variety, repetition, solid biomechanics and training science, high demand level, expectations of excellence and FUN(!) all part of this programming style. Issues of joint alignment, kinetic chain imbalances, movement pattern dysfunction and injury prevention must be addressed – as they work their tails off completing the day’s challenges!
Take a look at the session for kids training programs attached to this article. It’s just a sample of what we use to stimulate our athletes in an integrated fashion.
Can we improve traditional test results? YES! One group of 10 female high school soccer players improved their bench press, squat and power clean results by 22%, 25% and 20% respectively over just 6 weeks! Even more remarkable: the tested lifts were purposely left out of any of the 3 training sessions done each week! An informal test program, but impressive none the less!
Go ahead, get a little chaotic! Let the adrenaline junkie in you (and your athletes) feed on the red meat of a good, integrated session with some “crazy” variables! Have more fun in your sessions and see how your results – and your retention levels (a whole separate discussion!) – benefit!