The right strength training and conditioning for youth in sports can have life-long implications. Developing bodies need training that increases performance at an appropriate rate while decreasing the risk of injury. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, training should be comprised of developmentally-appropriate strength training, positive conditioning, active play and unstructured play. This type of safe and effective training for young athletes is the foundation for their long-term athletic development.
Engage in age-appropriate strength training and resistance exercises. Young athletes can benefit from strength and resistance training if the exercises are designed to prevent injury. According to the Fitness 10 training website, young athletes who participate in resistance training have an improved nervous system that allows them to produce more force, increase bone density, improve the strength of tendons and ligaments and prevent childhood obesity.
Implement a progressive workout program. As young athletes gain in strength and endurance, their workout should become progressively challenging to remain effective. For example, if an athlete can do 10 pushups without much effort, she should set a goal to do 11 or 12 pushups after an appropriate amount of time. According to trainer Jim Keilbaso of the International Youth Conditioning Association, young athletes who use progressive training should increase the weight lifted when the athlete can do three sets of six to 20 repetitions of the exercise at the current weight.
Work every major muscle group. Young athletes need comprehensive training to decrease the risk of injury and overuse in one or two areas. Keilbaso recommends programs that include strengthening exercises for the chest, upper back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, neck, abs, lower back, hips, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Comprehensive conditioning is especially important for young athletes who compete in year-round sports to decrease the risk of overuse injuries to one or more body parts.
Young athletes should train no more than two to four days in the off season of their sport, two to three days each week during pre-season and one to three days each week during the regular season, depending on game and practice schedules.
All young athletes should be evaluated by a sports medicine physician before beginning any strength and resistance training and should train no more than two to three times each week for 30 minutes.