2 Lower Body Strength Exercises for Young Athletes

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2 Lower Body Strength Exercises for Young Athletes

We’ve been working hard with lots of junior athletes on the Elite Performance Pathway this year and I’ve been reflecting on things I’ve done this year that have been particularly effective with the age group when it comes to improving strength.

Enhancing the force producing capabilities of our young athletes is a big priority in the Athletic Foundation (Year 7 & 8) phase of our LTAD system. Below are two exercises that are becoming common place in this phase as the athletes learn to train to get stronger:

The Bottom Up Split Squat

Bottom Up Split Squat

In my experience lots of young athletes struggle to get in to and maintain the correct start position when learning the Split Squat, even under just their own body weight due to various issues including poor stability. I’ve found that starting them in the bottom position of the split squat and making them work up from there a more effective way of teaching them this particular exercise.

Starting in the bottom position allows you to establish a solid, stable base before they lift themselves up to initiate the movement. It’s much easier for them to adjust their foot position whilst in the kneeling lunge position, as they won’t lose their balance.

I’ve also been getting them to execute it with their arms overhead, which fixes the common problem of the torso falling forward. As they get stronger you can provide some additional resistance from a medicine ball in the overhead position or at chest height.

The Kettlebell Deadlift

kettlebell-deadlift-from-the-floor-dieselsc-com

At the minute this is probably my favourite exercise to introduce to young athletes to lower body strength training after they’ve done some body weight squatting. It strengthens the posterior chain and is great to teach them how to get into and hold an extended spine position, which is particularly useful for those athletes that ‘fold’ over when performing any kind of body weight squat.

They can also start to get stronger in this lift even with a limited ROM in their squat, and means we can start to safely enhance their lower body force producing capabilities at the same time as addressing problem areas in their flexibility and mobility.

For those struggling to learn the movement, or struggling to get into the correct start position. I’ve been raising the Kettlebell on a 15 or 20kg bumper plate to make sure they are starting with the spine in a neutral position. Alternatively, starting from standing at the top of the lift (opposite to the Bottom up Split Squat) and working down to where they are able to maintain the neutral trunk position, gradually increasing depth over reps/sets/sessions as improve ROM becomes available.

Progressions

Both exercises set us up nicely to introduce more advanced variations of the exercises in subsequent blocks/phases of training as the movement pattern is already in place with the athlete. Example exercise progressions for each exercise are:

Bottom Up Split Squat -> MB Split Squat -> DB Split Squat -> Barbell Split Squat

Kettlbell Deadlift -> Kettlebell Swing -> Trap Bar Deadlift -> Traditional Deadlift

If you are interested in learning more about best practises to develop strength, power, speed and agility for athletes across the developmental continuum, join us for #ChildToChampion in Gloucester in April.

 

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