Why Strength And Conditioning Is Important For Youth Athletes
One of the major concerns we get here at Terre Haute Intensity Resistance and Sports Training (THIRST) is regarding health and safety of athletes training and lifting weights. Luckily, we’ve already written an article about this on our website, which you can read here. At the end of the day, we know that parents are just doing what is best in the interest of their child for their health and wellness. That’s why we’ve wanted to share this information so that more parents and adults are aware of the correct information and can make an informed decision.
Here is why strength and conditioning is important for the youth athlete.
Creating A Foundation For The Future
Strength training plays a vital role in ensuring that athletes build and create healthy movement patterns and motor skills. This aids with coordination and being stable and strong in awkward conditions or positions as the athlete grows and progresses in their athletic career. During adolescence, athletes go through many changes to their bodies as they grow and mature. Strength training can aid in adapting to the leverage changes during the course of a career, which not only keeps them safer, but aids in the long-term athletic development (LTAD) process.
Reduce The Risk Of Injury
Building the foundational strength, youth athletes grasp a better idea of their body mechanics in a safe and controlled atmosphere by using proper technique. Proper strength training with youth athletes is about teaching technique and safety while preventing injury. Very rarely will you see someone get hurt from lifting just from the weight alone. In most injury cases in lifting, it comes from improper technique and being in bad biomechanical positions. The earlier an athlete can learn to move properly, the better off that athlete will be in the long run. Generally how you learn something the first time, is how you’re going to resort to doing it. We tell our interns and people that come to learn from us, that we would much rather have someone come to us untrained versus someone that has had years of incorrect strength training experience because it’s easier to teach someone how to do something correct when they don’t have bad movement already ingrained. As the saying goes, “You can’t teach a old dog new tricks”. Even when an athlete learns an exercise with a light weight incorrectly, they put themselves at a higher risk later in their sporting career after that movement has been loaded incorrectly. This is precisely why we take the time to start athletes with our custom progression models to safely teach kids proper movements over time, and slowly add weight as the athlete can demonstrate consistent proper technique.
Additionally, youth athletes will also benefit from improved flexibility and mobility in new ranges of motion under safe load, increasing tendon strength, and improving abdominal and core strength.
This is probably one of the most notable things we’re known for at THIRST, and that’s making athletes tremendously stronger. As our good friend, and San Jose State University Strength and Conditioning Coach Lucas White has said, “The first word in our title is ‘Strength’ in strength and conditioning”. I couldn’t agree more with Coach White. It’s kind of obvious that strength training will help improve strength in youth athletes, but many people tend to still shun this part of being a great athlete. It’s commonly recognized that strength improvement in youth athletes will be some of the best gains a person will achieve in their life, even more than when they start in the late teens. Becoming stronger in common loading patterns such as the squat, hinge, push, pull, carry, lunging variations and ability to brace and stabilize the body will always help transfer in sport. But even bodyweight, bands, light dumbbells and kettlebells, sleds, ropes, and med balls are proven to be safe and improve performance for athletes as young as seven years old. Strength training for the youth athlete is essentially a free cheat code available to every athlete.
Build Self-Esteem and Confidence
Arguably one of the best things about strength and conditioning for the youth athlete is the improvement in their self-esteem and confidence. Studies have shown that athletes have improved and positive self-image with regular strength training. The demands of strength training can help an athlete gain focus, attention to detail, and dedication to the process of becoming better at something they are passionate about. Over time, they notice they are able to do things they weren’t able to do before, not to mention run faster, jump higher, and perform longer. Athletes will also have improved body composition by being leaner and more athletic. But let’s not forget that we’re also teaching them healthy habits that they can take with them for the rest of their lives, even after their sporting career.
A stronger athlete is a better athlete. In today’s age, everyone thinks more is better, especially when it comes to sport specific training. We all know that kid that’s going to hitting lessons at eight years old, or attending camps upon camps. Research has shown that early sports specialization is not the answer to being the best athlete. Greater benefits can be made from a well-rounded program that focuses on strength and conditioning, and providing an environment where a variety of movement patterns and exercises can be developed and learned. Most youth athletes do not have the strength, endurance, or stability of their body and joints to perform many sport skills. Sport-specific training at a young age can result in muscle imbalances, improper training technique, and overuse injuries. Getting in a great sports performance program can help aid the athlete in being ready for the demands of multiple sports, and enhance their performance in the long haul. You likely won’t see the youth athlete put on a lot of size (unless they have hit puberty), but they will be come stronger and an improved athlete from improved neuromuscular coordination. In simple terms, you’ll see improvement in mobility, stability, coordination, strength, speed and agility, quickness, and conditioning.
At the end of the day, we have to remember we’re dealing with kids and young adults. Usually the more you can get them involved in, the better. While kids have become more goal-oriented, it’s important for us to help athletes avoid burnout. Unfortunately, we see amazing athletes decide to leave a sport they used to love, merely from doing it for ten plus years, and not being able to do anything else. Strength and conditioning is a great addition to an athletes training goals because the number of exercises and activities that can be done are nearly limitless, all while they are doing something that is going to enhance their sports performance without actually having to do the same repetitive motions day after day.
Strength and conditioning programs for youth athletes are becoming more popular, and athletes looking to play at the collegiate and professional level are beginning to realize the benefits of strength and conditioning for long-term athletic development. Know that research and professionals are doing their best to provide athletes the best chances to succeed, and strength and conditioning is becoming a huge part of the puzzle.