As the National Strength and Conditioning Association states in their position statement on youth resistance training, “Strength training youth athletes needs to be safe, effective and enjoyable. In order for strength training to be safe it’s more than the method of strength training, but rather how it is being implemented.”
For example, important factors such as proper form when lifting and moving are overlooked when a coach simply follows a plan on a written document or tries to implement a training program they once performed. For this reason, Responsible Coaches seek help and guidance from qualified strength coaches to assist in the development of athletes of any level to ensure that strength training is performed in a proper and appropriate manner. The risks of strength training are similar between youth and adults and strength training is only effective when it is done in a safe environment with proper supervision.
In order for strength training to be effective Responsible Coaches realize that strength training must complement sport training. For example, eliminating practice time to introduce or implement an effective strength program and developing basic movement skills are safe investments. The off-season and preseason are ideal times to implement a strength program. Responsible Coaches recognize athletes need to have the appropriate motor control to perform basic exercises such as a squat, lunge and pushup before progressing to loaded exercises. Although these movements and others may seem rudimentary and common most young athletes lack the ability to execute them with proper form. Another reason for stressing the importance of such training is that these skills and movements transfer to many different sports and across all levels of sport.
In order for strength training to be enjoyable two very important factors must be considered: Athlete’s must understand and see benefits from the strength program while also training in a fun and enjoyable environment. Any athlete is more likely to continue training when they understand the benefits and see results. This highlights the importance of a sound and effective program. This is especially important considering it may take a few weeks of progressing before performance increases are seen or athletes begin to feel the positive effects of training. Until then it is important to keep training fun and enjoyable by mixing in games or challenges that keep athletes focused. For example, performing walking lunges on a row of printer paper without stepping off could be enjoyable and challenging for younger athletes.
On the other hand older athletes might enjoy keeping a log of their vertical jump height as each athlete attempts to beat their own personal records over time. Setting goals that are both attainable and challenging for the team or each individual is very important when trying to keep athletes motivated and driven. Thus coaches should be prepared with progressions and regressions for different exercises or activities based on ranging abilities of their athletes. If all this is kept in mind it shouldn’t be hard to keep things in enjoyable and fun while still performing strength training in a safe and controlled manner.
Fagenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., et al. (2009). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 60-79.