Home Page > Coaching > Resistance Training for Juniors
I have always advocated resistance training for juniors - long before it became fashionable and an accepted means of conditioning. The dilemma in the past for parents and coaches alike, has always been the problem of how much, how often, and for whom. Unlike running - which juniors can do unsupervised for most of the time - most forms of strength training requires supervision, if the resistance exercises are to be suitable and progressive for each individual junior athlete. I hope this article will give some help on how to pursue this aspect of training, and give junior athletes an appreciation of what they should be doing if they wish to pursue their athletics seriously.
All juniors who participate in athletics have a requirement for good physical preparation - resistance training has a great potential to address this need and is great for improving any junior’s physical ability to tolerate sport stresses, to improve performance, and to avoid athletic injury.
Children initially need to develop cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and motor skills as well as strength. The responsibility for any coach who determines a resistance programme for his junior athlete is great. They must decide if the physical and psychological work of the programme is suited to that individual, and that a one to one situation exists. The program must be designed for each child’s needs, and the proper exercise techniques and safety considerations employed.
One area of development for all children is upper-body strength. It’s been shown that upper body strength in both boys and girls is declining. Upper-body strength limits many sport-specific tasks even at the recreational level. Because of this lack of strength, specific exercises need to be emphasized in a resistance-training program. The design of any programme must also take into consideration the developmental differences. Children do differ from each other physically and emotionally. It’s important to realize that children are not just ‘little adults’ and that children of a similar age are not always equal either physically or emotionally.
Understanding some of the basic principles of growth and development will allow a more realistic programme to be created. This understanding will also help when developing goals and exercise progressions, it’s important that an exercise program match’s the physical and emotional level of the child. Each junior has a chronological age and a physiological age - the physiological age is the most important aspect and usually determines the capabilities and performance for that child.
Individualized Resistance Training Programs
When designing a resistance training program it must be a part of a total conditioning package. The junior should begin with a basic program that exercises all the major muscle groups of the body and muscles around each joint of the body. Warm-up, cool-down, and flexibility exercises should be a part of each session. Additional sport-specific exercises and exercises based on individual need can be added to the program after the junior has learned basic techniques. Individualizing a program requires: considering the strengths, weaknesses, and goals of each junior.
No major distinction between boys and girls’ resistance training programs needs to be made. Successful performance of a particular sport skill depends on the strength and power of particular muscle groups and not the gender of the participant. To promote proper growth and development, the importance of the child’s ability to tolerate the exercise stress cannot be overemphasized, the importance of individualized exercises, and proper supervision, cannot be overstated. For any program to succeed there is a fundamental need to communicate with the junior regardless of their age. All adults should encourage discussion and feedback and should listen to the juniors concerns and fears. Most important, is the need to use common sense and to provide exercise variations, active recovery periods, and rest from training. No single best program exists. Juniors should start with a program that they find acceptable but that becomes more aggressive as they grow older. Changes in the tolerance to resistance training programs can reflect the increased maturity of a junior.
It is important not to overestimate the juniors ability to tolerate an exercise or program. It is far better to start out conservatively than to overload the juniors exercise tolerance and reduce the enjoyment of participation. With the proper principles of resistance training, a program can be designed that reflects the child’s developmental stage. Using the right guidelines for progression, a resistance exercise program can be started at each stage of development that does not compromise enthusiasm and does not overestimate exercise tolerance.
Most junior athletes are already doing resistance training of one form or another, whether it is at the club on a circuit session or doing some press-ups before going to bed. This is resistance training with one’s own body weight and is an excellent way to condition the major muscle groups. Simple exercises like sit-ups, press-ups, squat jumps or treadmill running, (not the machine!) half-squats or back to back with a partner, are all simple and effective exercises.
The advantages are:
Bodyweight exercises are the starting line for all junior athletes, and regular weekly sessions are an essential aspect of good body conditioning that prepares the youngsters for the rigors of future training requirements.
Resistance Training Methods:
Apparatus & Equipment
This is a simple and safe method, but using an improvised chinning bar that you don’t know the strength of can be dangerous if it snaps. Certainly within the gym at school the use of ropes, boxes and the likes of parallel bars can be a great addition, but the improvisation of equipment at home is not recommended. Possibly the best piece of equipment that has come on to the market in recent times is the multi-gym. This piece of equipment if used under supervision can accommodate all the requirements of those juniors who have previously been involved with body weight exercises. The stations are free from danger and with the right weight and number of reps is a great way of resistance training. It goes without saying that no junior should exercise on a multi-gym without qualified supervision.