Youth Sports Education Series
Parents Beware… Your athletes are injuring themselves in the weight room!
As it often happens in youth sports, resistance training at school is not meant to be a competition between youth athletes. This is because of the following 5 reasons:
1) The coach of the sport is not a strength coach, they are a skills coach
2) Youth athletes need to be taught proper biomechanics & technique prior to maxing out with weight
3) Bad technique + heavy weight = injuries!
4) Bad biomechanics = lower athletic performance!
5) Youth athletes are still developing & growing … they are NOT MINATURE ADULTS!
Young developing athletes can certainly take advantage of the benefits of resistance training. When part of an appropriately designed exercise, nutrition & confidence-building program, a well designed resistance training program will help in preventing sport related injuries. The program just needs to be properly supervised by youth-specific strength coaches who are certified and obtain a college degree in a related field.
Benefits of youth resistance training
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recognizes that youth resistance training has the following benefits:
- Increased strength
- Enhanced motor skills
- Enhanced sport performance
- Improved psychosocial well-being
- Improved overall health
However, when a coach decides to take his team into the weight room health-related benefits are likely the furthest thing from his mind. The popular “bigger, faster, stronger” mentality can lead to misconceptions about the purpose of sports resistance training, which is to prevent injuries. Identifying and correcting neuromuscular weakness and imbalance as well as preparing the body for the increased demands of sport need to be the principal concerns. Enhanced performance is simply a by-product of a well-designed resistance training program taught with proper technique!
Age as a factor
Age is another important consideration that is often forgotten when designing resistance training programs for youth athletes. Youth athletes are exactly that, youths, and cannot be treated the same as adults in the weight room. When programming resistance training for youth athletes exercise technique, proper biomechanics & appropriate supervision are of the utmost importance. In fact, using improper exercise technique and horseplay are the cause of the majority of weight room injuries. Both can be eliminated with proper supervision and program design.
Guidelines for youth resistance training
There are multiple variables than can be modified to achieve the desired results when designing a resistance training program for young athletes.
However, here are a few basic guidelines to be followed include:
- Exercises that use large muscle groups (i.e. lunges) are preferred to those that use isolated muscle groups (i.e. leg extensions).
- Progression should be based on technique, then resistance. The primary concern is that the child learns proper technique first. When the exercise can be performed with excellent technique for 2 repetitions beyond the prescribed repetitions the amount of resistance can then be safely increased.
- In general, a 5% increase in resistance for upper body exercise and a 10% increase in resistance for lower body exercise is a good guideline.
A final important note
When picking an athletic improvement program for youth athletes, remember it needs to be educational, challenging, fun and enjoyable. If the athlete sees it as challenging and fun he is more likely to adopt resistance training as a means of exercise for the rest of his life. If made a chore, the child may withdraw and never enjoy the health-related and sport performance benefits of an ongoing training program.
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