Are programs like CrossFit or P90X appropriate for youth speed and power development?
By Mike Martin
When it comes to youth speed and power development, as a former high school teacher, coach, and now current owner of my own sports performance training business, I have a pretty good feel for what middle school, high school, and even collegiate athletes in my area are being given for training programs to “improve” their speed, agility, and vertical jump at their respective schools. Believe it or not, quite a few coaches and teachers are using P90X, Insanity, Tap Out, and CrossFit as speed and jump training programs. A quick search of internet message boards also reveals a common theme that programs such as these are fine for improving speed and vertical jump performance in youth athletes.
The problem is that these types of programs are meant for adults. As we all know, taking an adult program, implementing it on a population it was not intended for, and using it in a way it is not suited for, is certainly not going to help our athletes get more explosive, and it may even injure them.
A review by Johnson et al., of youth speed and power development and plyometric programs for young children ages 5-14 noted that a structured plyometric training program performed twice a week for 8-10 weeks, beginning at 50-60 total jumps and gradually increasing intensity, resulted in an increase in running, especially 30 meter sprint, and jumping performance (2). Additionally, Donald Chu PhD, recommends 60-100 foot-contacts of low-intensity drills per session for a beginner entering off-season training. He also stresses recovery between jumps and sets of jumps as crucial for plyometric training to improve power instead of muscle endurance. As an example, he recommends a 1:5-1:10 work to rest ratio for optimal power development, meaning if 5 hurdle jumps took 6 seconds to complete, the proper rest interval should fall between 30-60 seconds before the 2nd set is started (1).
On the other hand, the adult training methods in the above programs are based around repeated jumps for time or to exhaustion, and they are completed with very short rest intervals, counter to what research shows is the best way to improve speed and power through plyometrics.
Here’s the bottom line: Just because the aforementioned programs include jumping doesn’t make them suitable for youth speed and power development.
1. Johnson, Barbara, A., Salzberg, Charles, L., and Stevenson, David, A. A systematic Review: Plyometric Training Programs for Young Children. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 25(9) September, 2011
2. Chu, Donald, A, PhD. Jumping Into Plyometrics: Human Kinetics, 1992. Champaign, ILL.
Mike Martin, MS, CSCS, owns Next Level Athletic Development in Harrisonburg, VA and train athletes of all ages and abilities with a special emphasis on baseball players.