Sport Specific Youth Training Principles
The following are some guidelines for training and developing figure skaters from an athletic and functional perspective:
Promote concepts of multilateral development. This is a hard pill to swallow within the world of figure skating due to the fact that many coaches, parents and trainers are interested in pushing the limits with young kids in the hopes of national and international success. Your job as a parent or coach with young skaters is to introduce them to as much athletic stimulus as possible.
The nervous system of a young athlete is malleable and requires input to develop optimally. If you are prescribing little more than basic fitness and on-ice type movements, you are robbing the child of potential athletic growth and limiting his or her prospective success. Look at Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko respectively – one played hockey the other took martial arts. Diversity contributes to athletic success not hinders it.
Don’t engage kids in exercises that promote external stability or useless force production. The key to working with young athletes in any sport is to promote mobility, stability and balance in conjunction with force. Especially with the demands of figure skating, young athletes need to have a virtual warehouse of athletic based skills in order to reach optimal levels. This is achieved by moving and stabilizing the body through various planes and producing force through various vectors. Alwyn Cosgrove, a conditioning expert who is recognized as a Master of Sport Science with sport organizations throughout the world, is the off-ice coach to Bebe Liang, who just recently finished sixth at this past Junior World Championships. He defines the sequence as such: flexibility before stability – stability before strength – strength before power.
Potential Sport Specific Youth Training exercises to use with figure skaters of all levels –
Single Leg Squats
On-ice force production occurs unilaterally and functional training should reflect this. Single leg squats should be performed with the ‘free’ leg in varied positions (which reflects sagittal, frontal and even transverse strength/stability).
Jump rope with movement (locomotion)
Develops a great deal of leg strength and coordination. Locomotion should be multidirectional and jumps should be on one, two and alternating feet.
Somersault to Jump
This exercise promotes leg power in conjunction with spatial awareness.
Single Leg Balance Touch
Tremendous unilateral strength exercise as well as high inputs of balance and stability. Involve transverse stability as well by touching points on the ground that are to the side and behind the skater.
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