Strength training for children.
By Benchmark Webmaster | on Nov 29, 2017
Introduction Research shows young athletes can enhance physical performance and reduce their risk of injury when exposed to the appropriate training. It’s imperative that this training stimulus is programmed for the individual and delivered by a qualified coach.
Young athletes are a very unique population when exposed to strength training. A massive factor that must be considered is the rapid physiological and psychological changes experienced by children due to their stage of growth and the changes that come with maturation.
The training prescription needs to be adapted to the unique demands of youth training, and the physical age and training age (how many years you’ve been training) need to be big components of the programming.
Naturally as a child develops and matures there will be strength and speed adaptations resulting from their body starting to mature - this is equally true for male and female youth athletes. The hard part for programming is that the training stimulus needs to be adequate enough to produce clear changes that can be attributed to the training and not just maturation.
Goals and targets:
When we refer to youth development, we’re looking at ages from 2-11 and adolescents from ages 12-19. The majority of this information is applicable to both groups.
Targets with programming for youth development specifically focus on improving motor unit recruitment, firing frequency and neuromuscular performance. At this age range, we’re looking to refine and reinforce motor control patterns and build on fundamental movements. This is a perfect age to build a strong foundation with basic movements such as running, jumping, catching and throwing. This should always be a fun, safe training environment and have lots of varied stimulus.
Naturally as technical competency of the young athlete increases, the load and complexity will increase to match the training age. When there is significant development there can be a greater emphasis on other fitness qualities such as strength, speed, agility and power.
AMSC or Athletic Motor Skill Competencies will take up the majority of the programming for youth development. This can be broken down into 8 motor skills:
1) Acceleration and deceleration 2) Throwing, catching and gripping 3) Jumping, landing and rebounding 4) Anti-rotation and core bracing 5) Upper body pull - vertical and horizontal 6) Upper body push - vertical and horizontal 7) Lower body bilateral isometric, eccentric and concentric 8) Lower body unilateral isometric, eccentric and concentric
Although there is no minimum age requirement for a child to start resistance training, the child must be sufficiently mature enough to understand instructions and willing enough to participate of their own accord.
For youth athletes involved in multiple sports we need to ensure preparation phases are built into each completive season. In addition to this, adequate rest periods to adapt and recover from the stress stimulus are vital.
This approach is essential for reducing the likely hood of burn out or over-training which will lead to performance decrements and a reduction in health and overall well-being.
It’s is recommended youth athletes have a diverse experience with multiple sports and do not specialise with one sport until they reach adolescence. This will challenge and develop fundamental motor unit patterns and make sure there is not an overuse with certain movements which can develop into imbalances.
Conclusion: Due to the complex nature of growth and maturation, strength and conditioning provision for youth athletes requires an appreciation for paediatric exercise science. Attention must be given to the overall physical and psychosocial demands placed on the youth athlete. It is imperative that strength and conditioning is not simply viewed as an add on but rather seen as the essential and definitive component in youth development.
References: High-performance training for sports – Rhodri, Lloyd, Jon Oliver. Functional training for sports - Mike Boyle.