Should youth athletes be strength training? This question has been asked by parents for years whenever they begin to get their children into sports. The answer is ABSOLUTELY they should, but only when done correctly and safely.
When performed properly, strength training can provide young athletes with many benefits. Longer and leaner muscles at a young age are a couple of the incredible benefits that youth athletes gain from strength training. Strength training for kids needs to always be supervised and done smartly. Do not have a 12 year old kid performing something that you would do at 25 or 30 years old.
Strength Training vs Weightlifting
Strength training in youth athletes does not necessarily mean weightlifting. When we mention strength training to parents, they have a tendency to automatically assume their kids are going to be lifting heavy weights and looking like a bodybuilder. 10-15 years ago, this was certainly more relevant. But today, that is not the case at all. Our purpose is not to have the kids bulk up on muscle, but instead, build much more functional muscle and build their speed strength or strength for speed. Our goal is to try to enhance these speed muscles in order to make them faster, more athletic, and be able to change their direction better. We are not making mini bodybuilders.
The reality is, kids are performing strength building exercises every day. Carrying heavy backpacks or taking out heavy trashbags are everyday moments that actually help kids build muscle.
Incorporating TRX in your Program
TRX is an incredible tool to add to any bodyweight strength program. Here at Parisi, we use the TRX wall mount unit due its versatility in exercises. We use a modified program of TRX here that is more concentrated on kids. The exercises are the same, but obviously their bodies are different.
It’s important to take baby steps when starting the young athletes on a TRX program. One of the best ways that we start the kids is by teaching them a plank. Many times when asking kids to perform a plank on the ground we see that they are unable to do it correctly. Now with the TRX, we can have the kids perform a plank while standing up, by simply leaning back and activating their core muscles. For many of these kids, their body is straighter than it was when they were on the ground. Many exercises that we find easy to perform as adults, kids still have trouble with, so utilizing the TRX becomes crucial.
The foundation of every movement on a TRX is a plank. When we teach some of the other simple workouts, such as the row, we always start off in a plank position. When kids start to learn how to perform a pushup, we found that teaching them how to perform a press is one of the best ways to prepare them for a pushup.
Squatting on a TRX helps teach proper posture and keeps them nice and tall. Many exercises can be performed on the TRX that are truly great for younger athletes because it creates a great foundation for their technique.
3 Principles of Progression When Using TRX
TRX for More Advanced Athletes
- Inverted Row
- Push Up
- Sprinter Start
- Overhead Squat
- Hamstring Curl
- Hip Abduction
- Single Leg Squat
TRX for Mobility
- Sand Angles
- Long torso
- Low Back
- Kneeling Hip Flexor
- Chest Stretch
- Overhead Squat
- Figure 4
- Upper Back
We must really do our best to educate a parent on strength training for young athletes. One idea would possibly be to actually have an educational seminar, where you can walk parents through the process and give them a better understanding of how our program works. Help them understand that having their kids play on the monkey bars is not too different than having them use the TRX and they are both strength training.