The Importance of Olympic Weightlifting for Young Athletes: By Bri Gwaltney, B.S. Exercise Science, CSCS, USAW, UNC Charlotte Softball Alumni

Olympic lifting, when properly performed, increases strength, power, range of motion, balance, cardiovascular function, and connective tissue strength. So, why wouldn’t you want to start reaping those benefits at a young age? Here are some of the common questions and objections, followed by simple answers and explanations, to why Olympic lifting is so important for young athletes

Objection 1:

“Those moves are too complicated for children”

These types of lifts, including the clean, jerk, and snatch, do in fact involve complex neural activation and coordination. Because of this, it may appear like these lifts are unfit for children. But, this description is exactly why our young athletes need to be performing these lifts. With proper instruction, and the understanding that the learning period may take longer, kids can be trained to do these lifts as young as 8! With future research that age could possibly be younger! The neuromuscular function, balance, and coordination gained by learning and performing these lifts puts young athletes at a large advantage to learn less complex movements later on in adolescence, and even later in adulthood. It will also be easier for them to transition from sport to sport because learning the new movements will be an easier task.

Objection 2:

“Won’t Olympic lifting damage my athlete’s growth plates, in turn, stunting their growth?”

No, as long as it is instructed properly. Those of you thinking that this type of training can cause damage to growth plates, this is not true when instructed properly. In fact running actually puts much more impact on the bones than Olympic lifting, and kids do that everyday. The loads put on athletes during Olympic lifts promote bone growth in both children and adults. These loads can also help improve the strength of tendons and ligaments, promoting long term injury prevention.

Objection 3:

“My athlete doesn’t need all that, they just need to practice their sport more.”

Only focusing on sports specific movement and technical practice can be detrimental to our young athletes in many ways. Athletes who specialize earlier in their athletic career tend to get burnt out sooner than athletes who specialize later in life. Not only that, but the multi-sport athletes tend to be more successful in their chosen college sport. This is also where overuse injuries come into play. When you are constantly doing the same movement over and over with out training and strengthening the body as a whole, you are going to eventually get injured. Olympic training can actually prevent injury by strengthening connective tissues (bones, tendons, and ligaments), increasing balance, strengthening muscles, and increasing range of motion. Many of these lifts are started in what’s called the power position. The power position is almost identical to what many call the “athletic position”. From the power position the lifts involve quick explosive movements, pulls, pushes and major core stability. So, how is this NOT directly related to your sport? No answer? That’s because it is!

Objection 4:

“Other than sport skill, which can be subjective, what else can Olympic weight lifting improve?”

In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research a group of children ages 10-12 were trained for 12 weeks. One group was taken through an Olympic weight lifting program, one a Resistance Training Program, and one a Plyometric Training program. At the end of 12 weeks all of the athletes were tested in 7 different areas. The study showed that Olympic Weight lifting was 80% more likely to improve horizontal jumps, 5 meter sprint time, 20 meter sprint time, and isokinetic (produced at a constant speed) force than plyometric training alone. It was 75% more likely to improve balance and isokinetic power than resistance training alone. You can only imagine how much improvement this group would have over a group who was not training at all!

These results, in addition to all of the other reasons listed above, make it hard to argue against Olympic lifting. Plain and simple, Olympic lifting makes you faster and stronger.

If you want to learn more about Olympic lifting or how weight training can benefit your athlete, please drop by the Champion’s QUEST Athlete Academy, or give us a call at (562) 598-2600! Come join the QUEST to become the best athlete you have ever been by reaching your full athletic potential!

Chaouachi, Anis, Raouf Hammami, Sofiene Kaabi, Karim Chamari, Eric J. Drinkwater, and David G. Behm. “Olympic Weightlifting and Plyometric Training with Children Provides Similar or Greater Performance Improvements Than Traditional Resistance Training.” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28.6 (2014): 1483-496. Print.

USAW Weightlifting and Sports Performance Coach Course Manual

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One thought on “The Importance of Olympic Weightlifting for Young Athletes: By Bri Gwaltney, B.S. Exercise Science, CSCS, USAW, UNC Charlotte Softball Alumni

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