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4 Strength Exercises to start for Youth Athletes: Balancing Power and Safety,

Is strength training safe for young athletes, how can it be effectively used to improve speed AND in a time efficient way?

These 3 considerations go into our decision making process when we make recommendations for building strength to help youth athletes.

Yes, it's safe, when: (1) the appropriate exercises are performed (2) exercises are coached well and (3) exercises are performed with proper technique.

Strength or Resistance training is not just about building muscle mass; it's about enhancing the overall athletic ability, including power, speed, and agility. With that thought it mind, two other considerations:

1) what's the athlete's chronological age?

2) what's the athlete's training age? (how long have they been performing some form of resistance training - be it body weight, suspension training like TRX, dumbbells, etc)

Listed below are 4 exercises that we like to start with and gradually progress:

(1) Dumbbells (DB) Goblet Squats

Goblet squats are a fantastic starting point for young athletes. This Knee-Dominant movement, teaches proper squatting technique, which is foundational for most athletic movements. The front-loaded position of the goblet squat helps in maintaining an upright torso, which reduces the risk of back injuries.

(2) Trap Bar Deadlift

A Hip-Dominant movement. The trap bar's design reduces strain on the lower back compared to traditional deadlifts, since the weight is distributed evenly instead of a traditional Barbell (BB) Deadlift with all the load in the front. It's a compound movement that engages multiple muscle groups, contributing to overall strength and power, which are essential for speed.

(3) Sled Pulls

Sled pulls are exceptional for developing lower body strength and power. They mimic athletic movements and can be easily adjusted for intensity. Sometimes performed facing the sled and other times facing forward as pictured above with the focus on developing hip strength and power and when we're getting the athlete to sprint with load.

Most of the time, the goal is not to load the sled with as much weight at tolerable. Goal is to be able to still sprint while pulling the sled. We'll include another blog post on more details of appropriate weight-ranges on the sled based on ability and training goals. A low-impact exercise but high in value that helps the athlete get into a 45 degree lean to assist in acceleration.

(4) Sled Pushes

Sled pushes are excellent for developing forward driving power, crucial in sports that involve sprinting or explosive forward movements.

A lot of the similar benefits as the sled pull facing forward but with a slight difference.

Main goal here again is to help the athlete get into a 45 degree forward lean while:

  • building power and strength in the anterior chain muscles while teaching the athlete to push into the ground

  • Sled pushes are also beneficial for improving cardiovascular fitness, especially when performed at higher intensities.

In a different blogpost, we'll include the 8 main components that make up a complete Resistance training program for athletes, which includes non-linear movements as well.

Again, the goal for athletes of any age and ability is to build power and become more explosive with strength training while reducing the risk of getting hurt.

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