How to Train Youth Athletes
It has been established that resistance training for youth athletes is very beneficial, however how do you begin with a young athlete that has no experience lifting? Furthermore how do you train a middle school aged athlete for sport performance? One of the common misconceptions is to just perform speed workouts with young athletes. We have encountered many customers that say, I just want my child to get faster so just work speed drills. It is not that simple because as I have mentioned before strength and speed go hand in hand. The two greatest contributing factors to speed (that can be trained unlike genetics) are strength in relation to body weight and mobility. If the athlete can apply more force into the ground and has the necessary mobility to move at the correct angles then they will be faster no if, ands, or buts.
When training youth athletes we begin with developing the fundamental movement patterns: squat, lunge, hip hinge, pull, press. If the athlete has poor motor control and coordination, which many novices do, then throwing them through sprint drills will only be detrimental. We perfect these foundational movement patterns by performing them body weight, and then through super slow eccentrics or isometrics to eliminate any dysfunction or dead spots in their movement. Once they have mastered the fundamental movement patterns we teach them to breathe and brace under load which is the best way to train the core and lead to a healthy, strong, powerful, and fast athlete. The athlete learns to breathe and brace by performing loaded movements with kettlebells, planking, weighted carries and more. We also teach running mechanics on the sled, which serves a dual purpose as it strengthens the musculature required from sprinting. Once the athlete has perfected their movement quality we can begin to introduce sprints, jumps, loaded barbell movements, and agility. It is important that we periodize the training of youth athletes in this manner as we do not want to build strength on top of movement dysfunction.