Youth Football Strength Training
For youth football players, the added strength and endurance that comes with training can not only improve on-field performance, but can also reduce their chances of getting injured. It's important to note the difference between strength training and weight lifting for kids. Lifting too heavy can stunt growth by negatively impacting growth plates. Perform dynamic warm-ups before strength work.
Squat and Jump
This is a plyometric exercise designed to use a young player's natural body weight to build strength and keeps the stress level on their muscles to a minimum. This will help them get up out of a "down" position faster and improve driving strength when involved in a tackle. In an open field, have players squat down as if they were going to sit on a bench, keeping their feet at shoulder width apart. Players should stop when their thighs are parallel to the ground, and hold that position until you give the sign for them to jump up and forward into the air as high and fast as they can. Have players repeat this for 50 yards.
Lunge and Jump
This movement is designed to help with leg strength while running and should greatly reduce the chances of players pulling a muscle on the field. Have players in the open field lunge forward and hold the lowest position with their back knee just off the ground. You will sound a "go" command, and they will drive forward and up into the air using their front leg. Ask them to continue this for 50 yards alternating legs each time.
This exercise involves a young player's full body weight. The movement increases back, bicep and shoulder strength. All of these muscles are used either to hold on to a ball while being tackled, or wrap up a ball carrier in an attempted tackle. Use a bar that stands higher than the player's reach can go, spotting him by holding his waist as he pulls himself up. Palms should be facing forward, and the grip should be 3 to 6 inches wider than shoulder width apart. Have players complete two to four sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Dumbbell Bench Press
The dumbbell bench press is the only true weight-training exercise that's necessary for a young player to build strength. As well as building chest, shoulder and tricep strength, the movement develops stabilizing muscles that will reduce the chance of strains and injuries on the field. Use a flat bench and two lightweight dumbbells. Stand behind the young player and spot his movements by putting one hand underneath each elbow for support. Concentrate on proper form and a slow push. Do two to four sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Medicine Ball Twists
This exercise develops the core muscles of a young player. The movement improves performance in nearly every physical part of the game, increases balance during general movements and greatly reduces the chance of injury when players torque their body in any given direction. Sit on the floor with a lightweight medicine ball in your hands and have the player sit behind you with his back against your back. Twist from side to side, handing the ball to each other in quick but controlled movements. Do two to four sets of five-minute intervals.
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