STRENGTH & CONDITIONING FOR YOUTH ATHLETES
AN OVERVIEW FOR PARENTS
With this article, I want to give you an overview of:
1. What strength and conditioning (S+C) is,
2. What it looks like for youth athletes and
3. The huge benefits of S+C training.
There are so many ways to take this and I love getting into the details, but for today let's look at the basics. 1. WHAT IS STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING:
Simply put, strength and conditioning looks to improve the bio motor (athletic) qualities held by an individual. These include strength (think the ability to produce force), speed/power (think sprinting and jumping), endurance (longer duration, aerobic activities), coordination (balance and motor control) and flexibility/mobility (the ability to control the body through its full range of motion).
This is generally done through a combination of scientific and anecdotal methods, and it is appropriately tailored to an individual, group or team. For example, each player on an AFL list will be working on similar qualities at similar times of year, but their individual program will be adjusted based on their needs and experience. In addition to this and equally as important, if not more so, is injury prevention. Appropriate training methods and progressions can play a massive role in preventing injuries that may keep you on the side line. More on this later!
This is not only for athletes. All populations can benefit from being able to move better, with more control and less risk of injury over a lifetime. However, for the purposes of this article, we will steer it towards youth athletes.
2. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR YOUTH ATHLETES
At present, there is an overwhelming body of evidence to support the use of S+C in youth populations. This evidence states that young athletes that participate in this kind of training can have long term health benefits across their lifetime! Who doesn’t want that?
Over time, on average, youth athletes that complete a S+C program will jump higher, run faster, have more muscle mass (in sport this acts as a shield to protect your body), increased strength, better control over your body’s movement and so much more. The benefits are nearly endless, and I will dig into these at a later date.
When it comes to S+C for youth athletes, initially we want to educate them on how and why they should move. We want to develop an interest and understanding of their training needs. The analogy that I like to use when describing how we develop youth athletes is; “you would not build a skyscraper without knowing you have a solid foundation!”. We train youth athletes to have that foundation, once that is acquired then we can start to progress into more complex training styles. This sets them up for a lifetime of movement!
3. TOP 5 BENEFITS OF STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR YOUTH ATHLETES?
Reduced injury risk - youth athletes that complete an appropriate S+C program are significantly less likely to get injured short term or long term.
Improvement in all bio motor qualities vital to sport - strength, speed, endurance, coordination, control.
Increased cardiovascular system - who doesn’t want a healthy heart? …
Decreased risk of childhood obesity - which can be a precursor to a myriad of long-term health risks.
Improved immune system - we can see how important this is with the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
When it comes to youth strength and conditioning there are a number of misconceptions, so let’s quickly address these.
Does strength training stunt growth? NO!
Is strength training dangerous? When appropriately programmed, NO.
Do you think all kids can benefit from a well-designed training program outside of their regular sport? 100% YES, I personally think it is a no-brainer. The long-term benefits, both in sport and general health are exponentially greater than any potential risk. Age and experience will dictate what we do, but all can benefit.
Upcoming topics on youth training:
Preparation for sport
Recovery methods for youth athletes
Thank you for reading and let me know what you would like to learn more about!
References: if you want any of the studies to back these claims up, let me know. There are tons!
Aiden George - Head of Youth Athlete Development.