With all things equal, the stronger an athlete is the better they will perform. That’s why proper strength training is so important for athletic development. When youth athletes perform strength training workouts designed to increase their overall athleticism, the result is better sports performances… no matter what sport they play.
Many youth athletes, coaches and parents make the mistake of trying to specialize for one sport and train specifically for that sport…
Instead, these youth athletes should be trained simply to be a better athlete. By doing this, there is a carry-over to any sport they play. More on this in a bit…
Youth athletes are any athletes from 6-18 years old. This is a very specific time in their lives in terms of growth, development and maturity. This is an opportunity to train them for complete athletic development. The strength training at this stage should lay a foundation of athleticism to help them improve their sports performances… for any sport!
With this in mind, here are 8 strength training tips for coaches and parents who want to improve their youth ath- lete’s sports success:
#1 Train Like An Athlete… Not a Bodybuilder
One of the biggest mistakes youth athletes make when trying to get stronger for sports is to train like a bodybuilder. Bodybuilders are trying to build bigger muscles for the sake of it. Athletes need to build lean muscle that makes them stronger and faster during sports. If youth athletes just start “lifting weights” without regard for developing complete athleticism, the result can be inflexible muscles and imbalanced muscles that actually slow them down and hurt their sports performances.
#2 Develop the Posterior Chain
The posterior chain a group of muscles located on the back of your body. They are the low back, glutes, ham- strings and calves. They work together to help you run fast, and move quickly. So many youth athletes never maximize their sports potential because these muscles aren’t fully developed. When you build a foundation of strength in the posterior chain your athletes will have immediate sports performance results.
#3 Get Them Functionally Strong
There’s a difference between getting strong with weight lifting and getting “functionally strong”. Functional strength exercises are those that usually involve more than one muscle group at a time. This allows the body to work towards improved athleticism…….(Please no more BICEP CURLS AND KICK BACKS coaches!!!!)
These types of exercises also require more mind/muscle connection due to the athletic requirement of functional exercises. These exercises don’t require heavy lifting but will get you strong for sports. Functional training also increases the strength of the stabilizing muscles in the hips and shoulders, resulting in a decrease of non-impact sports injuries.
#4 Develop the Core (Not using sit ups)
Think of the core as a tube that starts under your chest and at your waist and goes around your body. This core area is crucial to long term sports development. By properly incorporating core exercises you will develop increased sports power throughout the body. The core is the link between the feet and hands. One of the most important areas of the core for complete athlete development are the Internal Oblique muscles. By developing these inner core muscles there will be a nice improvement in athletic performance.
#5 Don’t Get Sport Specific
Although many youth athletes are specializing on a particular sport, be sure they don’t get sport-specific with their training… yet. You see, building a complete youth athlete is like building a house. The first thing you do when you build a house is lay down a solid foundation. A house built on a poor foundation will crumble and fall eventually. Think of youth athlete training as performed for laying a foundation of strength, speed and overall athleticism.
- There is a time for training in a sport-specific manner but not without foundation training first.
#6 Develop the Basic Movement Patterns
The muscles of the body work together to perform various movements. No matter what sport you play or what skills are required to play it, many muscles throughout the body are working together to make these skills possible.
A youth athlete should learn how to perform each of the body’s basic movement patterns: Squat, Bend, Lunge, Push, Pull and Twist……And do them well (especially at a younger age)
#7 Train for Total Development
When setting up a strength training program for youth athletes, I like to use strength training exercises to accom- plish multiple things. One day per week they will work on speed and power, a second training day will work on conditioning and finally a third training day to focus on strength and muscle. Three days per week of specific athlete development is perfect. Any more is counter-productive.
#8 Train the Body as a Unit
One big mistake that many coaches make is separating the workouts for their athletes by body parts. In other words, they are setting up the training as a bodybuilder would with separate training days for chest/back, legs, shoulders/arms. Please don’t do this with your youth athletes. Splitting the body parts up and training in this fashion will not allow youth athletes to reach full potential, and might actually hurt their performances over time. Split routine workouts also lead to muscular imbalances and nagging injuries. Full body workouts that allow training the body as a unit mimic the requirements of sports performance.
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