September 4, 2015

7 Reasons Youth Athletes Need a Strength Coach

1. More Strength = More Force

Research shows that increasing the amount of force that is applied into the ground is the most effective way for an athlete to become more powerful and explosive. For an athlete to increase the force they can apply when they sprint, jump, or change direction, they must get stronger. Strength can be increased in 3 ways:

  • Getting bigger muscles
  • Increasing nervous system response
  • Technique improvement

Besides sports practice, which will always remain number 1 in the hierarchy of sports mastery, strength training is the most effective way to make your athlete faster, more powerful, and more explosive.

2. More Speed

Agility, or change of direction speed, is extremely important in most sports. Agility drills tend to be what athletes and parents gravitate toward, but I place the importance and implementation of these drills pretty low on the priority list. Agility is more strongly linked to the ability to slow down loads and change the direction in which those loads are moving We achieve this in 3 main ways:

  • Olympic lifting
  • Traditional strength training
  • Plyometric jumps/ landings

Studies have shown that athletes have improved change of direction speed by  5-10% though adding strength training to their programs. It has also been shown that using plyometrics (box jumps, counter movement jumps, and depth jumps) improved agility and ground reactions force.

3. More Body Awareness and Skill Acquisition

Strength training at a young age helps youth develop better body awareness. This will help them progress as athletes at critical developmental stages which will increase their athletic potential in ways that are not possible later in life. Just like its easier to learn a language when you are young, it is also easier to learn certain skills at certain stages in life. The age in which athletes should start learning how to lift weights is somewhere between 8 and 12 years old. It is critical that certain skills are acquired at specific developmental windows, allowing children to have the best chance for success in sport.

4. Reducing Injury Risk

When athletes understand how to better control joint positions and have a stronger trunk, they can control their movement better resulting in a lower incidence of injury. It has been shown that athletes who regularly participate in strength training and vary their movement patterns are less likely to get injured on the field of play. Additionally, 70% of all ACL injuries are not caused by contact, but are related to the inability for the hamstring to slow down the body. Programs focused on deceleration training with proper hip height and knee position have been shown to reduce the risk of non-contact ACL injuries by 72%. This shows that introducing strength training, olympic lifting, and plyometric training to our youth athletes in a controlled and properly progressed system will achieve the best results and reduce the risk of injury.

5. Confidence

It has been shown that kids who participate in strength training gain confidence through the success they see over time in the gym. Strength training allows youth athletes to produce more force, lift more weight, move faster and more efficiently; this is progres they can see when taking on more advanced movements or adding more weight to the bar. This is not only beneficial for youth athletes but also for kids that are overweight and unathletic. Overweight kids tend to accell at weight lifting and have immediate success where they may have had a hard time feeling confident about participating in sports where more athletic skills or cardiovascular fitness is required.

6. Strength Coaches are Educated

To be a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) a 4 year degree is required. With some other personal training certifications, only a one weekend course is required. Being in this industry for 7 years and working with strength coaches and personal trainers, I have found that there is a gap in knowledge and personal trainers fall short in the skills to program for performance goals and athletic success. That is not to say that some personal trainers don’t have the knowledge to train clients to reach their goals, but when it comes to performance a strength coach is what you are looking for.

7. Culture & Community

For the most part, when you work with a strength coach you are working with a group of your peers. This creates a culture centered around hard work, dedication and sacrifice. The atmosphere in a strength training facility gives kids motivation to challenge themselves to work harder by seeing what other athletes their age can do as well as what more advanced athletes are capable of. Though strength training, like many other sports, life long bonds and friendships are formed with kids from other communities whom they would otherwise not have met.  

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