Archive for “Strength Programs” Tag

Are We Really Getting Stronger?

Is Your Youth Strength Training Program All Hype?

youth strength training program

By Mike McGurn

All sports I can think of require basic strength levels, and strength training has recently become a much sought after attribute in the athletic community. Kinesiologists, physiologists, athletic trainers, and professional strength coaches all tell us that if all we did was increase muscular strength by 35-40% in an athlete without changing any of the other attributes needed for the sport, there will be a definite improvement in performance levels.

The doubters may disagree and question how getting stronger can be of benefit in sports where the technique is the priority. Surely though, being a lot more stable or injury resistant when performing the activity is a major benefit.

I have always found that there is a massive transference from doing a proper youth strength training program into improving all the other physical components that a sport requires. Various journals and abstracts on Muscle Activity tell us ‘without sufficient strength, factors such as skill, flexibility, and endurance cannot be used effectively.’

youth strength training program

This is not ground breaking information, nor will it allow me to claim that I have discovered some amazing new angle in the fitness industry that I can exploit to become a millionaire overnight! The truth is, millions of athletes all over the world are now participating in ‘strength training’ programs.

The questions I have is whether these programs are actually improving strength or if they are one among the many overhyped fitness programs masquerading as the next best thing. Some so-called youth strength training programs I witness these days resemble a gadget assault course, with all sorts of non essential equipment being used.

Another aspect of these diluted strength programs that winds me up are exercise machines. Equipment manufacturers saw a niche in the fitness market with their highly engineered exercise machines, and boy did they have an impact. Gyms, health clubs, and sports clubs embraced this concept and were covered in rows of fancy machines which had the sole purpose of allowing you to do one exercise!!! Of course we know that this type of equipment is nowhere near ideal for developing useful strength.

youth strength training program

There are many other short term fads which are likely to go away as quickly as they appeared.

So how do we get back to actually building strength? I once heard the quote, ‘to get stronger lift heavy rocks.’ That isn’t too far wrong.

I call my approach to gaining real functional strength ‘the bullseye theory,’ which can basically be summarized by saying that throwing 3 aerodynamic darts to try and hit the bullseye is much more favorable than throwing 15 broken ones! In other words it is better to concentrate on a few aspects of training and do them well, rather than trying to cover a multitude of areas. Trying to do too many different things only leads to athletes spreading themselves too thin and diluting what they are doing. This means that despite busting themselves in the gym, they don’t really improve at anything in particular.

This is where I feel a lot of youth strength training programs are seriously flawed. Some strength programs I have observed have up to 15 different exercises. The reasoning was that in order to make the athlete stronger, every muscle group needed to be activated individually. This is simply not the case.

In general, when it comes to dedicated strength training, I believe athletes need to focus on only three core movement patterns: Olympic lifts, squats, and deadlifts.

youth strength training program

If all our athletes ever do in the gym is work on these patterns and their derivatives, and focus on them all the time, they will drastically improve their strength and athletic performance. My opinion is that to improve athletic performance Olympic lifts are king. Clean and snatch often and do it hard. Supplementing these lifts with squats and deadlifts will go a long way in developing strength in our athletes.

It really is that simple, a youth strength training program does not have to be complicated to be effective. Rather than trying to implement 15 exercises in a program to make sure all the bases are covered, focus on the few that give the greatest return.

Mike McGurn has been a strength and conditioning coach for 18 years. He is currently based in Belfast in Northern Ireland. 

If you are interested in learning more about developing complete athletes and GREAT youth strength training programs make sure you check out Complete Athletic Development!

youth strength training program

 

A Lesson on Youth Sports Injuries

Youth Sports Injuries Can Be Avoided

Jim Ochse is an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa. He serves as athletic trainer for the women’s Volleyball, men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s tennis, and baseball.

During the summer, Jim presents SAQ camps for athletes from 10-18 years of age in northeastern PA.

IYCA: What’s your background in youth sports and athletics? Have you worked with young athletes?

JO: I started out as a Health and Physical Education teacher for K- 6 for several years, but was disenchanted in how physical fitness was instituted in the educational system. I then became certified as an athletic trainer and have covered all aspects of youth sports for the past 22 years. I serve as a volunteer coach for soccer, basketball, and baseball for my local youth association. During the regular school year from September to May, my main responsibility is to the college athletes at DeSales University in Pennsylvania ; however, I do talks and clinics whenever possible to youth, and have a few personal training clients that I collaborate with. During the summer months I direct a number of Speed, Agility, and Quickness camps in my local area for youth from ages 10-18. I also do one day seminars on running, and other topics such as how to incorporate stability ball training to their strength programs.

IYCA: There are a lot of coaches, parents, and even trainers who treat young athletes as if they were "little adults." What I mean by that is they will take the training routine of a superstar athlete and use it as a guide when working with youngsters. Why, if at all, should we warn them against that kind of training?

JO: I see this mentality used by both parents and youth coaches, and obviously, this type of mentality is not appropriate for developing athletes. A training routine for youth should be individualized for that particular athlete. A young athlete is not mature enough physically, psychologically, or emotionally to even perform the same type of training as an adult. They do not have the base of aerobic/anaerobic conditioning that a more mature athlete has acquired, nor should they attempt a strength program that is meant or written for an adult. With their growth plate still immature, performing strength exercises for mature athletes may predispose them to unnecessary injuries. Weight training does have its place among young athletes; however, emphasis should be place on light weights, proper form and techniques, an implemented by a well qualified coach or personal trainer.

IYCA: The age old debate is "How old should an athlete be before beginning to lift weights." What’s your view on that controversial topic?

JO: I go along with the NSCA position on weight lifting. I believe that children can even be taught Olympic type weight lifting techniques, but not use extremely heavy weights. In fact, most of my teaching at this level is with either a broomstick or at most a light barbell. I even have my 8-year daughter lifting light dumbbells, and even perform modified pushups on a Swiss Ball, and performing abs curls. Physiologically youth athletes physiologically are not capable of withstanding great weights, due to their anatomical structure and rate of maturity. I use a lot of body weight exercises such as squats, lunges, and step ups. I use upper body exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups, and resistance bands, in place of weights. I want to make sure that the young athletes have the proper techniques down. When they are older, they can worry about increasing their resistance training.

IYCA: Using your ideals, could you define "functional conditioning" for us?

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