Should Young Athletes Specialize Training in the Weight Room?
You’ll find athletic training facilities everywhere now a days and young athletes are always looking for a way to get the edge. I am all for these youngsters getting after training to better themselves, but should they be specializing their training? What I mean by specialized training is a program, exercise(s), drills, etc. that mimic a sport or position.
I will tell you that one of the best ways to get better at your sport, is to actually play your sport; however, I am not a proponent of year round specificity of one sport. We now see all of the research and articles out there saying multi-sport athletes have a much greater advantage because of the different disciplines, motor demands, and differing coordination that is required from different sports. For developing athletes, concentrating on just one sport is detrimental to them becoming an all-around athlete. I do feel at some point a young boy/girl has to choose their main sport and develop towards that, but it is usually in the later years of high school.
What I love about the weight room is it is exactly just that; completely different from a sport, unless your sport is powerlifting. Unfortunately, anymore a great deal of facilities are now shifting training of young athletes to specific training way too soon. When young athletes begin training, there should be a major emphasis on general physical preparation. Too many times, I see young kids with apparatuses hooked up to them doing sport movements, or training with bands and chains hooked up to bars, or doing crazy box jump variations. Listen, this stuff is all great, has a lot of merit, and we do use them, but a young athlete needs much more. When building a house, you don’t start with the roof first.
Here’s what young athletes should be working on in the weight room (or at a training facility) to increase their performance:
- 1)They should be training movements not muscles. Unless you are a body builder, you should not be training muscles. You need to train body movements, hip extension, knee extension, horizontal press, etc. These are movements that put our bodies in motion.
- 2)They should be starting out using regressed exercises. The days of a young athlete walking in the weight room and getting under a squat bar the first day are over. Have them start out doing exercises such as Goblet Squats, Push-ups, etc. This will teach them proper form, reduce injuries, and give them the base strength they need.
- 3)Doing exercises such as Sled Pushes and Farmers’ Walk variations will help build what we call Body Armor. These types of exercises cause tension throughout the whole body and builds strength throughout the whole body (aka Farm Boy Strength).
- 4)They should be performing exercises such as Pull-ups, Chin-ups, and Push-ups. These exercises will help build relative body strength. This is the strength that is relative to one’s own particular body weight. This goes a long way with increasing a young person’s performance.
- 5)Of course, they should be sprinting and working on form. Just don’t get caught up in the whole 40 craze. Most sports are multi-directional not just in a straight line.
These are just a few things to implement in a young athlete’s training program without doing specialized exercises. Too many times, trainers get caught up in Combine-mode and act like they are training a 12- year old for the NFL Combine. Athletes need to be slow cooked, not microwaved. The only thing I have seen happen to young athletes that get involved in a specialized program too soon are injuries. Remember, training in the weight room (or training facility) is to get better in there and have those gains transfer to field of play when we are talking about younger athletes. Strength goes a long way with athletes that have little to no training experience. Getting stronger will help increase speed, power, movement, and of course, strength. Don’t be in a hurry….it should be a process.