"Will lifting weights affect my growth?"
"I don't want to look like those body builders"
"I want to be strong but don't want to look like Serena Williams"
These are just some of the reasons why young athletes say don’t want to start strength and conditioning (SnC) program.
And I don't blame the youth for this bad image of SnC. Drug use in bodybuilding and sports, combined with a misinformed media has created the perception where people think just walking into a gym will make their neck grow towards your ears. The young athletes don’t truly understand what SnC is and how it can dramatically improve their sporting performance. SnC is a specialised form of training that helps to improve the rate of force production in key movements, which is a fancy way of saying you’ll be faster and stronger in your chosen sport. It’s not about building big muscles for show or developing random strength with no purpose.
Strength and conditioning is an
essential training component of any sport, whether you take part in swimming,
cycling or ten-pin bowling. SnC is performed to help prepare your body for the physical
demands of the sport that they are participating in. It does not involve going
to a gym and randomly lifting heavy weights. A good SnC coach will create a
program that focuses on the individual needs of the young athlete and their
chosen sport. For example a swimmer might need more explosive power for pushing
off against the wall, a good SnC program will improve this.
A good SnC program does not only just have a strength component. It will also include, mobility and recovery. Otherwise they will be susceptible to injuries. I have personally seen a few young athletes not following SnC programs get bad injuries during competition.
Benefits of SnC:
- Increased strength
- Increased motor control
- Increased mobility
- Increased bone density
- Improved sport performance
I recommend that young athletes start their SnC program focusing on performing the basic exercises until their form and technique is perfect. It’s not important for the athlete to try and increase loads at this time. Body weight or just an empty bar would be enough. It is common practice in some of the top sporting countries to give young athletes a broom stick to practice with until their form is perfect, only then will they be allowed to use a weighted bar.
Program template for young athletes
- Teach proper technique
- General strength
- Teach core exercises e.g. squat, lunge, pushup
- Focus on mobility (this is especially important as young athletes generally hate to stretch)
- Importance of recovery and eating right
SnC will not only improve sporting performance but also allow the athlete to keep playing at a high level as age increases.
As much as training is important for the young athlete to be competitive, they can easily over train, which can reduce performance, run down the immune system or allow the athlete to get injured more easily. It’s important the young athlete eats well, has enough rest and proper recovery.
Speak with your IFC trainer if you want help planning a SnC program for young athletes.
Carl Jan De Vries