Parents often wonder about the value and safety of strength and conditioning programs, but when taught by professionals and done in the right setting, pediatricians support it. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports Strength Training in youth and teen athletes for a number of reasons including:
- Improved strength and coordination
- Increased muscle endurance
- Improved sport performance
- Improved health
- Improved bone strength/ bone density
- Reduced risk for injury
- Improved self-image and self-confidence
A good strength and conditioning program for younger athletes (ages 7-10) will introduce them to strength training by performing “body-weight” exercises – using the athlete’s own body weight as resistance. By focusing on body-weight exercises, athletes can learn to control their bodies and grasp proper form before they’re introduced to physical weights. Body weight exercises include: push ups, body- weight lunges or squats, dips, step-ups and core exercises like planks.
At ages 11-14, athletes begin incorporating dumbbells, kettle bells and other weighted equipment to perform simple exercises such as overhead press, biceps curls, weighted lunges, and squats. As the athlete progresses and masters the the proper form, more complex exercises can be added. High School age athletes will add more complex weight exercises, increased load and longer training sessions.
Strength and Conditioning programs for athletes (of all ages) should also include the instruction of proper running mechanics for linear, lateral and multi-directional movement as these skills will help improve overall quickness, ability to accelerate, keep up with opponents and prevent injury. In addition, athletes should also be taught proper jumping and landing skills.
Any program for youth and teen athlete should:
- Group athletes by age/skill level
- Train 2-3 days/week for at least 10 weeks to see measurable results
- Teach proper exercise technique and gym safety
- Be supervised by an experienced fitness professional
- Every exercise session should be preceded by approximately five-10 minutes of soft-tissue warm-up, followed by dynamic warm-up exercises
- Be fun, instill confidence and encourage improvement
To learn more about Next Level’s programs, visit www.NLTraining.com/athlete-training or call us at 703-754-0161.