Tuesday, May 27, 2008

General Training Guidelines For Young Athletes

Don't push a young athlete too hard or too fast! Teach them to enjoy sports! By the time a child is 5 or 6 years old, they are usually ready for some type of resistance training. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) gives the following general guidelines:

1. If your child is apparently healthy, a medical exam is not mandatory. An exam is recommended for kids with known or suspected health problems.

2. The child should be ready to follow instructions and training guidelines.

3. The exercise environment should be safe and free of hazards.

4. The child should warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes before resistance training.

5. Children should be encouraged to ask questions about training and praised for participation.

The child should be emotionally mature enough to accept and follow directions from competent adult instructors. Here are some benefits of youth resistance training:

1. Increased muscle strength and endurance.
2. Increased bone density.
3. Decreased risk of injury.
4. Positive changes in body composition (less body fat and more muscle mass).
5. Improved sports performance, running speed and jumping ability.
6. Improved self-esteem and self-confidence.
7. Overall improved health.

For kids ages 5-9, bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, back extensions, crunches, squats, etc. are sufficient. To prevent injury and burnout, any speed or agility “drills” should be limited to fun games that require cutting, explosive burst, change-of-direction, jumping, bounding and jumping rope.

For kids ages 10-12, some light dumbbell exercises can be used with the bodyweight exercises and the speed and agility drills can be ramped up.


A YOUNG ATHLETE SHOULD NOT BEGIN A SPORTS TRAINING PROGRAM WITH PLYOMETRICS AND RESISTED SPEED TRAINING TECHNIQUES (WEIGHTED VESTS, SLEDS, ETC.)!

FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH, CORE STRENGTH AND RUNNING/LANDING/JUMPING MECHANICS SHOULD BE MASTERED FIRST. FAILURE TO FOLLOW THESE PROGRESSIONS WILL SUBJECT THE YOUNG ATHLETE TO POSTURAL DYSFUNCTIONS AND INJURIES!


Beginning at about age 13, young athletes can begin a more serious program of sports conditioning. These athletes should not limit themselves to one sport, but should participate in as many sports as possible to enhance overall athletic skills.

In all cases, avoid over-training young athletes. Over-training will take the joy out of sports as well as break down their bodies. And remember, kids are not training to be the next Derek Jeter, Adrian Peterson or Tom Brady. They are training to be the best they can be!

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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