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Junior Athletes Need Strength & Conditioning

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Strength and conditioning (S&C) is an integral part of all elite sport around the world. At any level, coaches hire experts in S&C to increase athletic performance, manage injuries and look after their athletes in the gym.

But what about youth athletes? Do they need S&C Coaches?

The short answer is yes. Strength and Conditioning is essential at the youth level and should be a part of any youth athletes development.

The aim of this article is to shed some light on the positives of strength training in particular and why every youth athlete needs to be in a supervised S&C program!

First we need to define ‘Strength Training.’ Strength or Resistance training does not mean bodybuilding, powerlifting or trying to lift the heaviest weight possible. Strength training is used to increase an individual’s ability to produce or resist forces and can include bodyweight movements, machine weights, dumbbells and a wide variety of equipment. Resistance training is the best way to increase relative strength, improve bone density, and build a foundation for injury prevention.

In Australia there isn’t enough information being communicated to parents and coaches to provide clarity on the positives of strength training and progressions for youths. Internationally, for example in Canada and USA,  professionally administered S&C programs for youths are common place as the benefits are widely understood.

When you are ready to play organised sport (football, netball, rugby etc.) you are ready to train in a supervised strength and conditioning program. This is supported by the following two widely accepted models.

  1. The Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) (Bayli, Higgs & Way; 2010)
  2. Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) Position on Youth Resistance Training

With that clarity let’s look at the top 5 reasons why every youth athlete should enter an S&C program:

  1. Improve overall health and fitness 

For a young athlete resistance training can have a significant effect on a number of areas including:

  • Increased overall muscular strength and local muscular endurance
  • Strengthens muscles, ligaments, tendons
  • Improvements in bone mineral density (Bone strength)
  • Improvements in body composition (Body fat percentage)
  • Increase aerobic fitness

This would benefit any child. With children spending an increasing time either sitting down or surrounded by technology it’s more important than ever for them to stay fit and healthy.

  1. Learn fundamental movement patterns 

Youth athletes are often given sport specific drills which teach how to pass, kick etc. But how many coaches teach children how to effectively run or change direction? This is where an S&C coach can help. Through training, a youth athlete can learn the fundamental movement patterns required for any sport. Coaching athletes how to squat, jump, land, change direction, run and move their body is just as important as sport specific skills. These movements are the foundations on which to build a strong base that will set them up for future success.

  1. Injury Prevention 

Injuries are a common occurrence in sport especially at the youth level. A structured strength training program will decrease the risk of injury and help prepare athletes for the demands of their sport. Even at a young age, children are exposed to high ground reaction forces in sport. Imagine the impact with the ground during sprinting, jumping, changing direction etc. Increasing overall strength and strengthening the surrounding structures can assist in absorbing these forces. An experienced coach will not only focus on correct technique but will also gradually increase a youth athletes load in their program to allow them to progress both safely and effectively.

  1. Increase confidence 

 The addition of resistance training and exercise can also have a positive psychological effect on youth athletes. Strength training can increase confidence, self-esteem and their sense of well being. This is often an area which can be overlooked but the ability to change make a child feel better and healthier is extremely valuable.

  1. Increase sporting performance 

Performance is ultimately the last part of the puzzle. Keeping a youth athlete fit, healthy, injury free and moving correctly will translate over to increased performance on the field. For talented athletes looking to take their training to the next level the addition of strength training can be a game changer.

Take action

What’s the next step? First,  find the right coach combined with a safe environment to train in. At GW Performance we have a team of experienced and educated coaches who can cater to a range of athletes. Want to know more? Email us at info@gw-performance.com