Home Posts tagged "Youth Resistance Training" (Page 2)

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/1/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Four Must-Try Mobility Drills - In case you haven't already seen this, it's a article I had published at Arnold Schwartzenegger's website yesterday, including a lengthy video.

"He's a Big, Strong Kid" - With the $100 off sale of the IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification this week, it seemed like a good time to "reincarnate" this popular one from the archives at EricCressey.com.

Everything You Need to Know about the Hip Thrust - This is a thorough blog post from Bret Contreras on "everything hip thrust."  Bret's devoted his career to glutes and pioneered this exercise, so you could say that he's an authority on the matter.

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Youth Strength and Conditioning Programs: “He’s a Big, Strong Kid.”

Recently, while discussing one particular athlete we encountered at Cressey Sports Performance, my staff members and I got on the topic of how it's more of a challenge to train bigger (taller and heavier) young athletes than it is to work with smaller guys.  Interestingly, the challenges come less from the actual physical issues they present and more from the social expectations that surround their size. Here are seven reasons why I cringe when I hear parents say "he's a big, strong kid" when describing their children on the phone.

1. Bigger kids are often forced into sports and positions that may impede their long-term development - When you're the heavy kid, you're automatically pushed toward football and put on the line.  If you're playing baseball, it's first base or catcher.  If it's basketball, you're the power forward.  You get the picture - and similar "pushes" are made on tall kids to play basketball or volleyball.  The problem is that in most cases, these sport and positional "predispositions" put bigger kids in situations where they don't develop in a broad sense because there simply isn't enough variety.

2. Bigger kids usually start weight-training on their own - This point relates closely to point #1.  Unfortunately, when you're already labeled as the next star offensive lineman or power forward and you can already push your buddies around, chances are that you learned to lift with Dad in the basement, from a misinformed football coach, or be screwing around with your buddies.  I would much rather have a completely untrained 16-year-old start up with me than be presented with a 16-year-old with years of poor strength and conditioning programs and coaching under his belt.  This is true regardless of body type, but especially problematic in bigger kids for reasons I outline below.

3. "Strong" has different meanings - Sports require a combination of absolute and relative strength.  Strength is also highly specific to the range of motion (ROM) in which one trains. There is also a difference between concentric and eccentric strength.

What do most big young athletes do when left on their own?  Focus heavily on absolute strength (train what they're good at) through small ROMs (rather than fight their bodies) with concentric-heavy workloads (because pushing a blocking/tackling sled is sexier than a properly executed lunge).

I can count on one hand the number of teenage athletes who were called "big and strong" who have actually showed up on their first day and demonstrated any appreciable level of strength in any context - let alone usable strength that will help them in athletic endeavors.  Usually, we wind up seeing a sloppy 135-pound bench press with the elbows flared, legs kicking, bar bouncing off the chest...in a kid who can't do a push-up.

And this is where the problem arises: kids who have always been told they were strong don't like coming to the realization that they really aren't strong.  We don't have to directly tell them, either; taking them through basic strength exercises with proper form will reveal a lot.  And, there is typically an example of a smaller athlete like this kicking around not too far away.

The kids who check their egos at the door will thrive.  A lot might never come back until they're injured from poor body control or riding the pine because it turns out that their "strengths" really weren't that strong.

4. Bones grow faster than muscles and tendons - In young athletes who haven't gone through the adolescent growth spurt, you often don't have to do any additional static stretching, as a dynamic warm-up and strength training program through a full ROM can cover all their mobility needs.  Unfortunately, when kids grow quickly, the bones lengthen much faster than the muscles and tendons do, so we run into situations where bigger kids have truly short (not just stiff) tissues.  Effectively, this adds one more competing demand for their time and attention - and it's the worst kind to add, as most kids hate to stretch.

5. Being bigger changes one's stabilization strategy -  As I described in great detail in The Truth About Unstable Surface Training, the taller one is, the further the center of gravity is away from the base of support.  As such, taller kids are inherently more unstable than shorter kids - although this can be partially remedied by gaining muscle mass in the lower body to lower the COG and learning to "play lower" in appropriate situations.

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Not surprisingly, though, being heavier - particularly with respect to having a belly - can dramatically change one's stability as well.  Carrying belly fat shifts the center of gravity forward - which is why individuals with this "keg" instead of a six-pack appear more lordotic (excessively arched at the lower back).  Compensations for this occur all along the kinetic chain, but the two things I'd highlight the most are:

a. An increased need for anterior core strength - As evidenced by the high incidence of spondylolysis (lumbar spine fractures) and how badly most kids perform on basic prone bridging and rollout challenges, the inability to resist lumbar hyperextension (and excessive rotation) is a serious problem.  The bigger the belly, the more extended the lumbar spine will be.  Just ask any pregnant woman how her back feels during the last trimester.

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b. Substitution of lumbar (hyper)extension for hip extension - You'll see a lot of big-bellied kids who can't fully extend their hip and instead just arch their back to get to where they need to be.  This is a problem on multiple fronts.  First, the hip extensors are far stronger and more powerful than the lumbar extensors, so performance is severely impaired.  Second, there are huge injury implications both chronically (lumbar stress fractures, hip capsule irritation) and acutely (strained rectus femoris or hamstrings).

Simply dropping some body fat and improving anterior core strength is a huge game-changer for many overweight athletes.  It's not always the answer they want to hear.

6. Bigger kids usually have less work capacity - I've never been a guy who jumped on the work capacity bandwagon, as I feel that it's very activity-specific.  However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to observe that the more body fat one carries, the more work he'll do oxygenating useless tissue, and the less oxygen he'll get to working muscles.  More importantly, though, try doing your next training session with a 60-pound weight vest on and see what it does to your work capacity.

The lower the work capacity, the less quality work one can accomplish in a strength and conditioning program.  Gains simply don't come as quickly on the strength and fitness side of things - even if body fat is pouring off heavier athletes.  In other words, they've actually sacrificed one window of adaptation (athletic development) in order to make another one (fat loss) larger.

7. I speculate that bigger athletes have an increased prevalence of "subclinical" musculoskeletal pathologies/deviations from normalcy - I've written in the past about how many athletes are just waiting to reach threshold because their MRIs and x-rays look terrible - even if they are completely asymptomatic.  You can see this just about anywhere in the body; most basketball players are just waiting for patellar tendinosis to kick in, and many football lineman are teetering on the brink of a lumbar stress fracture or spondylolisthesis (or both).

The heavier one is - especially in the presence of insufficient relative strength, as noted above - the more pounding one will place on the passive restraints such as the meniscus, intervertebral discs, and labrum.  A bigger belly and the resulting lordosis will drive more anterior pelvic tilt, femoral/tibial internal rotation, and pronation.  How would you like to be the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon in this situation?

Tall athletes tend to slouch more because they have to look down at all their peers.  Get more kyphotic, add some scapular dyskinesis, and see what happens to the rotator cuff, labrum, and biceps tendon over time.

There are countless examples along these lines.  And, to make matters worse, obese individuals are more likely to have inaccurate diagnostic imaging.  In an interview I did with radiologist Dr. Jason Hodges, he commented:

By far, the biggest limitation [to diagnostic imaging] is obesity. All of the imaging modalities are limited by it, mostly for technical reasons. An ultrasound beam can only penetrate so far into the soft tissues. X-rays and CT scans are degraded by scattered radiation, which leads to a higher radiation dose and grainy images. Also, the time it takes to do the study increases, which gives a higher incidence of motion blur.

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I want to be very clear; I love dealing with bigger kids just like I do all my other athletes.  We don't lock them in a closet with celery sticks and an exercise bike; we work them hard, but make training fun and support them fully in their quest to fulfill their athletic potential.  Having been an overweight teenage athlete myself, I know that weight management in young athletes is a hugely sensitive subject that must be approached with extreme care.

I also know, however, that in my overweight years, I would have much rather been worked hard like the other athletes and given the opportunity to choose my sport and position of interest rather than pigeonholed into one specific avenue because of my build.  That's where the "big, strong kid" label really concerns me and makes me want to plan out my strategy - both in terms of the physiological and social approach to training - very carefully.

For more information on how we train young athletes, I'd encourage you to check out the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification, which I co-authored.

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Youth Strength and Conditioning Programs: Systems, Not Just Sets and Reps

Back in November of 2010, a good buddy of mine who is a very accomplished college strength coach came up to Boston for a seminar we were hosting at Cressey Sports Performance.  The seminar was on a Sunday, but he actually flew up Friday night so that he could observe on Saturday while we trained our clients – which was a nice blend of high school, college, and professional athletes, plus our adult clientele.  All told, at the time, I’d say that high school athletes were 70% of our clientele.

That Tuesday morning, I woke up to this email from him:

“I just wanted to say thanks for everything.  I had a great time.  Your staff was outstanding and I really enjoyed watching you guys work on Saturday.  I realize you are managers, but certainly technicians as well.  Perfect form, I told Tony I saw two bad reps all weekend and someone was on the athlete before he had a chance to do another rep!!!   Thanks so much and come visit anytime, we would love to have you.”

This isn’t an email to toot our own horn; it’s to make a very valuable point.  If this coach had walked into every single private training facility and high school weight room in the country, in what percentage of cases do you think he would have come out with a favorable impression of the technique he witnessed in these strength and conditioning programs?  If I had to venture an extremely conservative guess, I’d say less than 10%.

Simply stated, both in the public and private sectors, some coaches are letting kids get away with murder with respect to technique, not warming up, poor load selection in weight training programs, and a host of other factors.

What happens, then, when the s**t hits the fan and a kid gets hurt?  I’ll tell you: certain exercises get “condemned” and strength and conditioning programs become more and more foo-foo; external loading is eliminated and kids wind up doing agility ladders and “speed training” for 60-90 minutes at a time in what can only be described as glorified babysitting.  Or, worse yet, weight rooms get closed altogether.  The door of opportunity gets slammed in the faces of a lot of kids who desperately need to get strong to stay healthy, improve performance, and build confidence.

That’s the reactive model, but what about a proactive model to prevent these issues in the first place?  Again, I’ll tell you: assess kids up-front.  Find out what is in their health history and evaluate how well they move.  Actually learn their names and backgrounds.  Then, program individually for them.  Coach intensely in their initial sessions and get things right from the start.  And, if an exercise doesn’t work for them, give them an alternative.

As an example, take the squat.  Some kids may not have sufficient ankle or hip mobility to squat deep in an Olympic style squat, so they’ll benefit more (and stay healthier) with box squat variations or single-leg exercises while you improve their mobility.  Others may even be too immobile (or possess structural issues like femoroacetabular impingement) to even box squat safely, so you give them more single-leg work and deadlift variations.  Regardless, you “coach ‘em up” well from the get-go – and they learn along the way.

In other words, the exercises aren’t the problem because exercises can be quickly and easily changed on the fly to match the athlete's level of abilities.  It’s the system in which they are placed that can be the stubborn, tough-to-change problem.

If you're struggling to get results with your youth strength and conditioning programs - or your business itself is struggling - be sure to look at your business model and overall systems before you start tinkering with the individual exercises.  Chances are that you need to rededicate yourself to relationship building and individualization more than you need to worry about sets and reps.

If you're looking to learn more about training young athletes, I'd encourage you to check out Mike Boyle's resource, Complete Youth Training. In it, he touches on everything from the problems with early specialization to age-specific training stages. It's a good investment for parents and coaches alike. From now through January 4, you can get $50 off on the resource. No coupon code is needed; just head HERE.

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Pitching Injuries: It’s Not Just What You’re Doing; It’s What You’ve Already Done

A while back, this article on pitching injuries became the single-most popular piece in EricCressey.com history:

Your Arm hurts?  Thank Your Little League, Fall Ball, and AAU Coaches

In that feature, I made the following statement:

We can do all the strength training, mobility work, and soft tissue treatments in the world and it won’t matter if they’re overused – because I’m just not smart enough to have figured out how to go back in time and change history. Worried about whether they’re throwing curveballs, or if their mechanics are perfect?  It won’t matter if they’ve already accumulated too many innings.

While athletes might be playing with fire each time they throw, the pain presentation pattern is different.  You burn your hand, and you know instantly.  Pitching injuries take time to come about. Maybe you do microscopic damage to your ulnar collateral ligament each time you throw – and then come back and pitch again before it’s had time to fully regenerate.  Or, maybe you ignore the shoulder internal rotation deficit and scapular dyskinesis you’ve got and it gets worse and worse for years – until you’re finally on the surgeon’s table for a labral and/or rotator cuff repair.  These issues might be managed conservatively if painful during the teenage years (or go undetected if no pain is present) – but once a kid hits age 18 or 19, it seems to automatically become “socially acceptable” to do an elbow or shoulder surgery.

Sure enough, just yesterday, reader Paul Vajdic sent me this article from the Shreveport Times. The author interviews world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews about the crazy increase in the number of Tommy John surgeries he'd performed over the past decade.

A comment he made really jumped out at me, in light of my point from above:

""I had a kid come in, a 15-year-old from Boca Raton, (Fla.), who tore his ligament completely in two,' Andrews said. 'The interesting thing is when I X-rayed his elbow with good magnification, he has a little calcification right where the ligament attaches to the bone. We're seeing more of that now. He actually got hurt with a minor pull of the ligament when he was 10, 11, 12 years of age. That little calcification gets bigger and, initially, it won't look like anything but a sore elbow. As that matures, it becomes more prominent. It turns into an English pea-size bone piece and pulls part of the ligament off when they're young.'"

In other words, it takes repeated bouts of microtrauma over the course of many years to bring an athlete to threshold - even if they have little to no symptoms along the way.  Injury prevention starts at the youngest ages; otherwise, you're just playing from behind the 8-ball when you start training high school and college players.

In addition to walking away with the perspective that young kids need to be strictly managed with their pitch counts, I hope this makes you appreciate the value of strength and conditioning programs at young ages, too.  For more information, check out my post, The Truth About Strength Training for Kids.

We can't prevent them all, but I do think that initiatives like the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification in conjunction with pitch count implementation and coaching education are a step in the right direction.

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Helping High School Athletes: A Sweet Deal on the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification

A lot of people know me as the guy whose products and articles have helped strength training enthusiasts prevent and correct movement inefficiencies that ultimately lead to injuries. Others know me because we train about four dozen professional baseball players each winter.

The truth, though, is that the majority of our clientele at Cressey Performance is high school athletes.  In the class of 2011 alone, we’ve had 17 athletes sign letters of intent to play Division 1 baseball.  Still, that doesn’t tell the most important story. For every kid who gets drafted into professional baseball or commits to play a college sport, we have 3-4 young athletes who train with us simply to build confidence, stay healthy while they play their sports, and foster fitness habits that will hopefully carry over to the rest of their lives.  I take that job extremely seriously not only because I genuinely care about each teenage and enjoy my job, but because it is a huge deal for parents to trust me with part of their kids’ physical and mental well-being during a crucial developmental time in an adolescent’s life. And, it’s also why I’m psyched about tonight’s announcement: the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification is now available.

Along with Brian Grasso, Mike Robertson, Pat Rigsby, Wil Fleming, and Dr. Toby Brooks, I contributed to this new certification, which features both a textbook and accompanying DVD set.  Among the topics covered are: Strength Training Technique, Functionality and Programming Speed and Agility Mechanics or Sport Specificity Mobility: Isolate and Integrate Coaching the High School Athlete Administration for the High School Strength Coach Sample Programming for football, baseball, and basketball The certification alone is something that, in our eyes, can not only dramatically help a high school strength coach’s career, but also help all the young athletes he/she encounters.  I’m going to sweeten the deal, though. The early bird price runs now through Friday (1/28) at midnight.  If you purchase the product (HERE) before midnight on Friday and forward me your receipt, I’m going to send you an upper extremity assessment tutorial video that I am filming this week as an in-service for my staff and interns.  This feature will teach you how to assess and manage the upper body in athletes – with a particular focus on overhead athletes. All you need to do is sign up for the certification and then forward your receipt to ec@ericcressey.com.  Then, next weekend, I’ll send out the video to everyone who contacts me. There are a whole lot of high school kids out there learning some really bad habits in the weight room, and you’re in a position to change that – and the IYCA High School Strength Coach Certification can help you do it.  Whether you’re in a high school or the private sector, there is a tremendous amount to be gained by checking this out.
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Do You Train Athletes? Don’t Miss This.

This past summer, I was approached by the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) about writing a chapter for the textbook for their new high school strength coach certification.  With the certification about to launch, Brian Grasso, Mike Robertson, Wil Fleming, and I will be hosting a FREE teleseminar this Wednesday night (1/19) at 7:30PM EST.  We'll be covering a ton of topics regarding today's young athletes and how to best train them. For more information, click here.
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All Young Athletes are “Injured” – even if they don’t know it

I've written quite a bit in the past about how one should always interpret the results of diagnostic imaging (MRI, x-ray, etc.) very cautiously and alongside movement assessments and the symptoms one has.  In case you missed them, here are some quick reads along these lines: Preventing Lower Back Pain: Assuming is Okay Who Kneeds "Normal" Knees? Healthy Shoulders with Terrible MRIs? While some of these studies stratified subjects into athletes and non-athlete controls, not surprisingly, all these studies utilized adult subjects exclusively.  In other words, we're left wondering if we see the same kind of imaging abnormalities in asymptomatic teenage athletes, which is without a doubt our most "at-risk" population nowadays. That is, of course, until this study came out: MRI of the knee joint in asymptomatic adolescent soccer players: a controlled study. Researchers found that 64% of 14-15 year-old athletes had one or more knee MRI "abnormalities", whereas those in the control group (non-athletes), 32% had at least one "abnormality."  Bone marrow edema presence was markedly higher in the soccer players (50%) than in the control group (3%). Once again, we realize that just about everyone is "abnormal" - and that we really don't even know what "healthy" really is.  So, we can't hang our hat exclusively on what a MRI or x-ray says (especially since we don't have the luxury of knowing with every client/athlete we train).  What to do, then? Hang your hat on movement first and foremost in an asymptomatic population.  Do thorough assessments and nip inefficiencies in the bud before they become structural abnormalities that reach a painful threshold. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a detailed deadlift technique tutorial!
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How to Find Your Fitness Niche

As a lot of you probably know, I'm pretty much known as a "baseball training guy" - and rightfully so, as about 80-85% of our athletes at Cressey Performance are baseball players.

Most people are surprised to find that I really never played baseball at a high level.  While I was super active in it growing up (my mother jokes that I actually taught myself to read with baseball cards), I actually had to give baseball up at the end of eighth grade so that I could focus on tennis, my "stronger" spring sport.  And, to take it a step further, when high school ended, I went off to college in 1999 fully expecting to become an accountant.  Seriously.

Around that same time, though, I had some health problems - and my shoulder was already a wreck from tennis.  Those factors "beckoned" me to a healthy lifestyle - and that's when I made the decision to transfer to an exercise science program and focus on my new passion as a career.  I did a double major in exercise science and sports/fitness management, and took part in internships in everything from personal training to cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation. When I headed off to graduate school in 2003, I anticipated going in to the research world.  About a month after I arrived on campus at UCONN, though, I caught the strength and conditioning bug and was hooked - for life.  Interestingly, though, in those first few years, I really didn't work with baseball much at all. It wasn't until I got out in to the "real world" that I just happened to start working with a few high school baseball players when I first moved to Boston.  They were great kids, and I had a lot of fun training them - and they got great results that drew a lot of attention to the work I did with them.  I was already a big baseball fan, and given my history of shoulder problems, I really enjoyed learning everything I possibly could about arm care - so it was a great fit.

The rest, as they say, is history.  We now have 44 professional baseball players from all over the country here to train with us at Cressey Performance because they believe our expertise, environment, systems, and passion give them the best opportunity on the planet to be successful in their baseball careers. I have guys who swear by my resistance training, medicine ball, mobility, soft tissue, movement training, and throwing programs even though I never even played a single game of high school - let alone collegiate or professional - baseball.  I've found my niche - but as you can tell, I never forced it. What do you think I would have said if you had asked me in 1999 what my ten-year plan was?  I would have told you that I'd be filing tax returns in early April, not following all our athletes on opening day around the country. And, if you had asked me in 2004 what my five-year plan was, I'd have told you that it was to become a great muscle physiology research.  I probably would have commented on how cool it was that the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years - but wouldn't have had the foresight to note that I'd someday go on to train two guys from that roster who have 2004 world championship rings. My point is that you can't force a fitness niche; you have to discover and then develop it.  A lot of stars had to line up the right way for me to get to where I am with working with a baseball population, but as Thomas Jefferson once said, "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."

Getting sick forced me to learn how to better take care of my body - and that led me to the fitness industry and strength and conditioning. Having shoulder pain motivated me to learn more about shoulder health. Being a "non-baseball guy" growing up forced me to do a lot more listening than talking with our athletes early-on, as I had to learn their culture.  It also put me in a position to never accept stupid training principles (like distance running for pitchers) simply because they were "tradition" - because crappy training was never a "tradition" that I'd learned. If I'd purposely gotten sick, whacked myself in the shoulder with a sledgehammer, and then read every book on baseball tradition that I could, do you think I'd be where I am today?  If you answered "yes," put down the glue you're sniffing and start reading this again from the top.

Every business consultant in the fitness industry raves about how important it is nowadays to get a niche.  Train middle-aged female fat loss clients only.  Or, maybe it's 9-12 year-old kids.  My buddy Eric Chessen even works exclusively with fitness for kids in the autism spectrum. I agree completely with these consultants' advice - but your appropriate niche won't magically appear unless you experience a lot of different settings and find the right fit for you, then follow up on it by educating yourself as much as possible by reading/watching everything you can, expanding your network of colleagues, and finding solutions to problems others haven't been able to solve. If you are going to do something exclusively, you better be: a) passionate about it b) good at it c) sure that it alone can financially support you d) excited about the possibility of becoming an expert and contributing to the existing body of knowledge in that realm e) willing to potentially pass up on opportunities in other realms To be very candid, I just don't think that having specific 5- and 10-year plans is necessarily a good idea.  Sure, it's okay if we are talking about financial planning, marriage, etc. - but when it comes to professional goals, there are just too many factors that can change things on a dime and turn you in a new direction.  I love what I do now, but couldn't tell you for the life of me where I'll be in 5-10 years - and I happen to think that I have a pretty good grasp on where I'm going, as compared to the rest of the fitness industry.  If I was just leaving college today, I'd definitely be taking it one day at a time! How about you?  What's your niche - and how did you discover and develop it? Related Posts Want to be a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach?  Start Here. 7 Steps for Attacking Continuing Education in the Fitness Industry How Do You Find Time for Everything?
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Strength and Conditioning Programs: 7 Steps to Programming for Young Athletes

Today's guest blog comes from Brian Grasso. Template Design is a style of programming that has yet to truly catch on industry-wide, but is remarkably effective, especially when working with younger, sport-based populations. Although I enjoy articles that are weighty in scientific specifics and complete in the depiction of the theories they are purporting, I also tend to benefit as much, often more, from less wordy commentaries that are pithy in nature. So today, brevity wins. In the current state of our industry (and I admit, this may be a terribly unpopular statement), we tend to over-scrutinize from a formal assessment perspective – the expense being common sense and practicality. An explanation may be in order… If a 13-year old presents, through formal assessment, with a “poor” forward lunge pattern, what does that really tell us?

Does he lack Glute strength or activation? Are her hip flexors too tight to create a positive forward translation? Is it a foot issue (that I dare say less than 1% of Fitness Professionals are truly qualified to ascertain)? Is it a structural abnormality? Now, the corrective exercise folk among us have all just raised their hands thirsty to share the knowledge of how to “fix” this barely teen – but let me ask another couple of questions first. Does the kid just not know how to do a lunge?  Could the “poor” result be “fixed” with three minutes of proper coaching and cueing?

At 13, has peak height velocity (PHV) begun, rendering this young athlete’s mobility and coordination nearly non-existent? Moreover, I’d be willing to bet that 90% or better of the 13 year olds who walk into your facility would “fail” this standard assessment:
  • They’re growing and lack mobility
  • They growing and lack coordination
  • They sit all day and have inappropriate hip functionality as a result
  • They’ve been introduced to improper “training” and lack posterior strength
A formal assessment can certainly show us gains, improvements and corrections when performed at regular intervals – and because of that, I am all for them. But here’s what I’ve learned to be true about coaching young athletes in the trenches:
  • You see them less than you’d like to and the “homework” you give them in the way of corrective exercise likely isn’t getting done – at very least not the way you’d want it done.
  • Your time with them per session is finite, but there’s a whole-lot-o-stuff that needs to be addressed.
  • Group and team training is almost always the way it goes – any sort of individualized attention must be created through a systematic approach to coaching and programming.
  • Yes, we all preach to our young athletes the virtue of lessening the load and concentrating on form – but, in the high school weight room when you’re not around, but their peers are, guess who is loading the bar?
This is not a declaration to abandon assessments altogether, nor is it a manifesto encouraging you to throw your hands up in the air and announce the situation hopeless. It’s a simple decree suggesting that your programming practice could aid a great deal in curbing this problem – and doing so not by what you discover “formally” through assessment, but what you know to be true about young athletes: 1. They sit all day long, which means: a. They are kyphotic and lack thoracic mobility (and therefore proper scapular function)

b. They have tight, weak hips that also lack function 2. They don’t have proper strength and conditioning care outside of you, which means: a.  ROM is compromised in all major joints b.  Form and function of lift technique is entirely unfamiliar Over the years, I have grown fond of referring to these issues as the “Likely Bunch” and have created a training template intended to meet of the aforementioned needs as a matter of principle rather than what an assessment tells me. Rather than programming for the day, week or month, my standard Training Template for a high school athlete looks as follows: 1.       Tissue Quality – 10 minutes 2.       ROM/Torso/Activation – 10 minutes 3.       Movement Preparatory – 10 minutes 4.       Movement – 10 minutes 5.       Strength/Power Technique – 10 minutes 6.       Strength Execution – 10 minutes 7.       Warm-Down/Active Flexibility – 10 minutes The “10-minute” time frame represents a maximum (with five minutes being the minimum).  This creates a 7-Step Programming Template that takes anywhere from 45 – 70 minutes to complete. I have 30–50 exercises listed in my personal database for each category and select on a given day what each athlete will work on. An example day may look like this: 1.       Foam Roll (Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, ITB) 2.       Ankle Mobility, Hip Circuit, Side Planks, Supine Bridges

3.       Various Multi-Directional Movement Patterns (including skipping, hopping and deceleration) 4.       Lateral Deceleration into Transitions 5.       Front Squat Technique 6.       Hybrid Complex – Hang Clean, Front Squat, Push-Press, Overhead Lunge 7.       Static-Active Hamstrings/Quads Within this template, I’m guaranteeing my young athletes get what they need from a developmental and preparatory standpoint each and every time they walk in my door. Create a Training Template for yourself and see how much easier programming becomes. Brian Grasso has trained more than 15,000 young athletes worldwide over the past decade. He is the Founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association - the only youth-based certification organization in the entire industry. For more information, visit www.IYCA.org. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:

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“Make My Kid Run Faster”

Since we work with quite a few young athletes, it’s the question I get a few times every week:

“Will you be doing speed training with my son/daughter?  He/she needs to get faster.”

In my head, I am always thinking, “No, all our programs are geared toward making athletes slower.  It’s really what we do best.”

Kidding aside, what comes out of my mouth is markedly different, as I have to explain how our training approach is going to be dictated by where that young athlete is developmentally – and each kid really is unique.

On one hand, you’ll have young athletes who have very poor mobility and stability – which equates to terrible body control.  Sadly, this has become the majority of 13-16 year-old athletes in the U.S. today thanks to a tendency toward early sports specialization and excessive computer time.

Given the crazy ground reaction forces (roughly 4-6 times body weight on one leg in each stride; or 600-900lbs for a 150lb kid) an athlete experiences during sprinting, you could make the argument that taking these untrained, physically incapable kids and throwing them into aggressive sprinting and change-of-direction drills could actually be considered very dangerous.  They simply don’t have the eccentric strength to decelerate this pounding, let alone create optimal subsequent concentric actions.  These athletes need time to develop a good foundation of strength and mobility – upon which good landing mechanics can be taught later in shorter, simpler drills.  Eventually, once they’ve developed some body control, they can make better use of true sprint training and agility work.

Or can they?

While these young athletes probably aren’t ready for being thrown into the fire in their training (closed-loop, or predictable, drills), what do they do outside of the gym?  They participate year-round in sports (open-loop, unpredictable/chaotic).

This is like recognizing that the engine on your 1979 Pinto is a ticking time-bomb and bringing it in to a mechanic for an hour a week for an oil change – only to take it out and drive it in the Daytona 500…every other day.  You’re swimming upstream.

So, the question becomes: do today’s “always in-season” high school athletes EVER get to the point that they really need much dedicated agility and sprint work?  Based on the preceding few paragraphs, for some athletes, I’d say no; they don’t need much.  Some foam rolling, a good dynamic warm-up, followed by some quick and to-the-point movement drills, and then solid resistance training should get the job done as long as they’re out there competing in their sports. 

On the other hand, while it is not a common circumstance nowadays, you do actually have advanced athletes (those with a decent foundation of strength) who may have periods of the year when they aren’t actively involved in organized sports.  These athletes absolutely do need to train with specific sprinting and change of direction work during these “off” periods of the year.  We generally program this work for days completely separate from lifting, although it can also be worked in between the warm-ups and resistance training components.  It’s of vital importance to recognize that these athletes can only make the most of these inclusions because they’ve put in the leg work (no pun intended) to make these high-stress reactive drills really beneficial and safe.

You know what’s funny, though?

The athletes who get to this more advanced stage have already gotten faster – because along the way, they’ve learned to put more force into the ground, and have improved their ankle and hip mobility.  They’ve become faster without ever spending much, if any, time at all on sprinting and agility drills.  And, once they have that foundation of strength, these supplemental movement drills actually work a lot better.

It’s like a big circle.  They build a foundation of strength, which helps them develop reactive ability.  They train that reactive ability further, and it brings them further to the “absolute speed” end of the continuum.  So, they lift heavier weights – which brings them back toward the center of that continuum, and, in turn, allows them to train reactive ability even harder because they’re running faster, jumping higher, and turning on a dime better than ever.

If you don’t understand what I mean, check this old video I did out:

The entry level kids I mentioned earlier aren’t even on a continuum.  They are on the “exerciser/non-exerciser” seesaw.  Make them regular exercisers and build up some strength, and they wind up starting on the absolute speed end of the continuum because all they’ve ever known is running around.  They won’t run faster until you get ‘em strong and shift them over to the absolute strength end of the continuum – and that simply won’t happen if you’re just spending 90 minutes of each session with them running agility ladders and doing skipping drills.

Why then, if the amount of movement training needed is grossly overestimated, do we have so many coaches and facilities in this industry who spend hours per week on movement training?  Very simply, money makes the world go round.  In other words, you can “safely” train a lot more kids in large groups and make it less coaching-intensive on yourself if you just set up cones, hurdles, and agility ladders and tell them to go to town. Actually getting a kid strong takes more individualized cues and variety in exercise programming.  And, because strength exercises are more high-risk/high-reward, they take more one-on-one coaching – which is tough to do when you have twenty 13-year-olds and only one coach.  This is one reason why I have always said that I will never let our business model dictate our training model at Cressey Sports Performance.

So, to wrap it all up: some kids need movement training, and some kids aren’t quite ready for it.  And, 99% of the time – while it might fly in the face of logic – if the parent comments on how slow a kid is, just having that young athlete go out and run more is the least effective, most dangerous way to address the issue.

For more information on the current state of youth athlete development and how to best set young athletes up for success, I highly recommend you check out Mike Boyle's new resource, Complete Youth Training. It's on sale for $50 off through this Sunday at midnight. You can learn more HERE.

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