Youth S&C Lecture Slides

Youth S&C Lecture Slides

Last week James headed out across the country to Fulham FC and Northumbria University to deliver a series of lectures and practical sessions looking at the application of Youth S&C within a secondary school setting.

You can check out the slides from the lecture which covered:

  • Current Issues in Youth Sport
  • Early Specialisation
  • PE Provision
  • Physical Literacy
  • The Physical Decline in Youth Populations
  • Current Youth S&C Research
  • Applying the research to build an LTAD System

Following the lecture the groups headed out on to the fantastic indoor track facility at Northumbria University to get practical for a Speed and Agility session that covered key areas for developing these components utilising Movement Games that are utilised in the Elite Performance Pathway system.

The practical included:

  • Underpinning Strength & Power Components
  • The PAL Paradigm – Posture, Arm Action & Leg Action
  • An integrated approach to the warm up
  • Acceleration basics
  • Movement Games to challenge specific movements – hip turn, directional step, lateral shuffle and cutting.

If you like the sound of the lecture and practical James will be delivering a similar theory and practical session at the Child To Champion conference in April. At present you can get access to the full weekend conference, pre-conference workshop and FREE access to all of last years videos courtesy of Train with PUSH through their Special Early Bird Ticket but there are only a few of these tickets remaining.

The Impact of S&C In Schools – An Athlete Case Study

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The Impact of S&C In Schools – An Athlete Case Study

There is no doubt in my mind that all schools should be working towards implementing a long term athlete development pathway. In schools, we have the more time than anyone to be able to positively impact up on young athletes.

We are at a point in time where the physical capabilities of young people are much lower than they used to be in a large number of cases.

Whilst many are actively playing in sport and developing sport specific skills, most are not being exposed to high quality movement training that enables them to develop a high level of athleticism to support their technical tactical development.

The Elite Performance Pathway

We have just completed the second academic year where we have delivered an in-curriculum Strength & Conditioning programme at Key Stage 4 (14-16 years old – Year 10 & Year 11).

Athletes on the programme receive 5 hours support across a two week timetable and are exposed to high quality training. We have developed a curriculum / pathway that covers movement preparation, strength training, jump/plyometric training, linear acceleration and top end speed, change of direction speed, agility and energy system development. In addition, they have completed psychological preparation workshops.

What the time in the school timetable provides is an incredible level of consistency, they have to turn up like they do to English & Maths. So what we’ve got is consistency beyond which I’ve ever been able to achieve with young athletes before.

When working as an external coach in schools previously, attendance at after school sessions was always variable due to other commitments in the evening, issues with travel getting to & from the sessions and clashes with sport specific training/fixtures.

The Impact

So people can understand the positive impact this type of programme can have I have included a real athlete profile of one of our 15 year old Rugby Players from this academic year.

Pre-training (Sept 2014)

Weight 64.1kg
10m Sprint – 1.96sec
Squat 10RM – 30kg
Bench 10RM – 30kg

Squat Jump* 35.8cm
Countermovement Jump* 47cm
Depth Jump (12″)* 39.4cm

*March 2015 measured with a Jump Mat

Post-training (July 2015)

Weight 64.5kg
10m Sprint – 1.81sec (-0.14sec)
Squat 10RM – 90kg (+60kg)
Bench 10RM – 65kg (+35kg)

Squat Jump 47cm (+11cm)
Counter Movement Jump 51.3cm (+4.3cm)
Depth Jump (12″) 46.7cm (+7.3cm)

There is still a long way to go with this athlete but what we have managed to put in place over the last 10 months is a foundation of strength to build up on over the next couple of years he is with us on the programme.

Another exciting development is that we are moving towards having a similar amount of time in the timetable at Key Stage 3 from September. We have been worked with an 11-14 year olds already but with much less time and consistency due to it being an extra-curricular session but we are really excited to see what the next academic year brings.

You can check out a more detailed insight to our school based LTAD system here with the full article featured in the UKSCA’s Professional Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Interested in joining other coaches to discuss LTAD? Check out the upcoming conference Child To Champion where a wide range of practitioners are coming together to present from different stages of the developmental continuum.

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


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.


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.


Programme Design – “Spinning Plates”



Programme Design – “Spinning Plates”

I was fortunate to spend a couple of days with Nick Grantham ( last month and he described programme design as “spinning plates”.
I thought this was a brilliant concept and it really summed up the way that we approach programme design with our Elite Performance Pathway programme, especially with the time limitations we have in place at present with some of the younger groups.

When I delivered the From Child to Champion lecture at Hartpury College last week one of the students asked me to expand on how I go about managing a multi-faceted approach to training. Here’s my response…

If you have an interest in strength and conditioning for young athletes and long term athlete development check out this workshop with Ian Jeffrey’s covering his tried and trusted systems for building champion athletes. Building Future Champions – 13th June 2015

Elite Performance Pathway Open Evening 15/04/2015

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Elite Performance Pathway Open Evening

Venue: Sports Pavilion, St. Peter’s High R.C. High School, Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL4 0DD.
Date: 15/04/2015
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm

We are running an open evening for the Elite Performance Pathway for current athletes and their parents to attend to review the progress of the programme and to outline the recent developments within the programme.

The evening is also for prospective parents and their sons/daughters that are interested in joining the Elite Performance Pathway to find out what is available to athletes who join the programme.

There will be a presentation on the structure of the programme and a chance to observe a live session with our Key Stage 4 athletes. The athletes and coaches will also be available after to chat to.

Schedule for the evening:

6.30-7.00pm Presentation for Existing Parents
7.00-7.15pm Tea & Coffee
7.15pm-8.00pm Observation of a Key Stage for EPP session
8.00-8.30pm Presentation for Prospective Parents

This is an open event, so you are welcome to bring friends and family members from around the city to come and see what is on offer from the programme.

If you are planning to attend the event please register with us below.

Open Evening

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Strength and Conditioning Internships 2015/2016

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Strength and Conditioning Internships

Role Description

Purpose: To support the strength and Conditioning coach and other members of the sports department with the delivery of the Elite Performance Pathway, a school based Long Term Athlete Development programme at St. Peter’s R.C. High School and Sixth Form Centre in Gloucester.

This is voluntary unpaid position

Responsible to: James Baker – Strength and Conditioning / Stuart Crabb – Head of PE

Duration: Until the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, with an option to continue next year following performance review.

Session times vary across the week between the hours of 9:30am – 3.30pm

“Working within the Elite Performance Pathway has given me an invaluable opportunity to develop my coaching skills involving young people. Honing in on strength, speed, agility, change of direction are only a small example of elements incorporated into the development program. Coaching within this small team, under the supervision of a UKSCA accredited coach, is a excellent career opportunity for an S&C internship.” Tulshi Varsani – Strength & Rehab Coach: TLV Cardiff

General Responsibilities:

  • Improve athletic performance through the programming and delivery of athletic development sessions.
  • Test, monitor and review of pupils competing in a variety of sports across the school year.
  • Assist in the design and delivery of year round training programmes for individual athletes
  • Undertake a variety of projects including research and reading to maintain consistent progression throughout the internship.
  • Assist in the delivery of S&C sessions during school hours and after school sessions for athletes across different sports with a view to eventually leading your own sessions.
  • Liaise with relevant medical practitioners to develop injury rehabilitation programmes.
  • Promote the safeguarding and welfare of children with whom you come into contact.
  • Maintain regular consistent and professional attendance, punctuality, personal appearance, and adherence to relevant Health & Safety procedures.
  • Pursue personal development of skills and knowledge necessary for the effective performance of the role.
  • Develop and maintain a good working relationship with the staff and pupils.
  • Carry out any other duties which may reasonably be requested of you by the Head of PE.

The ideal candidate will possess:

  • Coaching experience preferably within S&C and/or with youth athletes
  • Graduate qualifications in Sports Science and/or Strength and Conditioning (or working towards these) and REPS Level 3 Personal Training Qualifications.
  • Good knowledge of S&C principles including strength training, speed, agility and Olympic lifting.
  • Comfortable in a team sport environment, coaching and managing large groups
  • Excellent ability to communicate with young people and other members of staff.
  • Strong work ethic, punctual, reliable and committed to personal development
  • Willingness to learn and develop as an S&C coach
  • Desire to complete the UKSCA accreditation
  • Computer literacy including Ofice, especially Excel & Word.

In addition, this strength & conditioning internship will provide you with:

  • Practical experience operating within S&C in a multisport environment.
  • Knowledge & experience within S&C to assist in obtaining employment.
  • Career CPD including in-house workshops and networking opportunities.
  • Mentoring for UKSCA accreditation
  • Experience and knowledge of how to implement S&C in a comprehensive school
  • Opportunity for research projects


To apply: Please contact James Baker via email for an intial discussion about the post. Following this an application form and interview will be required –


Key Stage 3 “Movement” Scheme of Work

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KS3 Movement Scheme of Work

KS3 Scheme of Work – “Movement” Lessons

I was clearing out some stuff the other day and came across my old school journal from when I was in Year 8 at School. I flicked through it and came across my timetable next to PE it said “Rugby” and the other lesson “Movement”. The latter sparked an idea in my head.

Now I can’t remember what these lessons incorporated all those years ago, but what I do know now is what needs to go into the PE curriculum to build the physical literacy that is lacking for so many of our young people in modern society.

The above brainstorm is my initial concept for a scheme of work that will span the whole of Key Stage 3 in core PE lessons, bringing high quality movement training to the masses and not just the ‘gifted and talented’ pupils we have on the Elite Performance Pathway.

Keep an eye out for more posts as this idea develops further!



My initial concept / brainstorm for a

#SandCinSchools Project

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#SandCinSchools Project

The opportunity…

5 years ago I started working with schools in Gloucestershire to build Gifted and Talented S&C programmes, bringing what I’d learnt through the UKSCA to everyday school children. In total, working with Ed Archer at the Athlete Academy, we established 7 such programmes in the area (some which are still running now) but the experience at times was frustrating as schools/parents weren’t able to sustain the level of funding to keep the programmes running. It made me realise there was a phenomenal opportunity to develop athletes that lay in the hands of the PE teachers, given the time they get with the kids and that they have a captive audience that is not dependent on funding to keep going.

However, then & even now the focus of most PE teachers is predominantly the development of sport specific skills.  Yes they do some fitness work but not with the kind of systematic approach required to produce high level athletes time and time again. In many cases (but not all) it’s delivered as Health & Fitness Unit of Work (6-8 weeks) that covers using a fitness suite and some circuit training.

Having worked as an external coach for years, last year I landed myself in a teacher training position and qualified as a PE teacher earlier this year. Now fully employed as a teacher and S&C coach I understand the challenges faced by schools when trying to incorporate a long term development programme, but also understand how we can get S&C into the school system and the fantastic outcomes you can see for young athletes. (See our results so far in these articles – EPP 12 months on , EPP Speed Training)

The challenges…

PE teachers face a number of challenges in implementing a long term athlete development programme:

  • Time – having the time to plan, design and implement a system that is age appropriate around the workload of planning core PE lessons and teaching exam subjects, as well as all the fixtures in the extra-curricular programme is not easy!
  • Knowledge & skills – many teachers are fantastic teachers / coaches of different sports but lack the in depth knowledge & specific skills to develop high levels of strength, power, speed and agility that are crucial to success at the highest level in a way that is age appropriate.
  • Funding – paying an external coach to deliver a high level programme will be outside of the budget of most comprehensives/grammar schools, which pushes it on the parents & pupils and then your programme is as Long Term as they are prepared to pay for it.
  • Support – You need the support of the school, your head of department, your colleagues for a system to be built and sustained.
  • Facilities – Not every school is blessed with a fully kitted out S&C suite, but that doesn’t matter lifting weights is only one method of training, and there are plenty of things you can do with just some open space, some athletes and your imagination.

Just because these obstacles are there it doesn’t mean, it can’t be achieved!

Our project…

The #SandCinSchools project is aimed at providing teachers and coaches with online training resources they can refer to and apply within their school exposing more children in the UK to the benefits of strength and conditioning and a systematic long term approach to athlete development.

We have assembled a team of qualified S&C coaches from around the UK to generate videos, articles and resources that will be published through the Proformance Strength & Conditioning website that you will be able to access. You will get to see the methods we are already using with young athletes in a school environment on our Elite Performance Pathway programmes.

We will be covering a range of topics including how to integrate S&C into PE lessons when time & facilities are limited and maximising the effect of training through integrated training systems. How to monitor growth and maturation status, as well as looking at specific exercises to enhance flexibility, strength, speed, agility, co-ordination and power.

Our team of coaches are also available to book to deliver INSET & CPD workshops at your school if you want a programme tailored to your needs. In addition, we also have CPD workshops running in 2015 that will provide you with plenty of information to kick start your school in setting up a Long Term Athlete Development programme.

Look out for the #SandCinSchools hashtags, here are some video resources to get you started:

Strength & Conditioning for Junior Athletes


Strength & Conditioning for Junior Athletes

A few weeks ago I spent a morning at the UKSCA Youth Conference. It was a fantastic opportunity to listen to some of the world’s leading researchers and coaches, including Dr. Rhodri Lloyd, Dr. Avery Faigenbaum and Matt Cook, talking about why and how we should go about training our young athletes.

Over the last 4 years I’ve spent a large proportion of my time delivering strength and conditioning to junior athletes aged from 8-18.  When I think of some of the young athletes I have had the pleasure of coaching and what they have achieved as they’ve continued to train and develop, I’m inspired to help more young athletes have exposure to high quality strength & conditioning.

Below are some of the key messages that came out from the speakers mentioned above. Along with some of my own experiences as a coach and junior athlete.

Why is it important?

It goes beyond performance…

Let me put this out there first of all – it’s about way more than just improving sports performance with the younger age group.

Sure that’s a benefit and we want our young athletes to perform as well as they can, but who knows what they are going to end up doing in 10 years’ time.

It is just as much about helping them to develop the habit of a physically active lifestyle. We can provide young people with the skill set to look after their bodies for the rest of their lives.

Injury prevention…

One of the take home messages for me listening to Avery Faigenbaum’s presentation was that kids need preparatory conditioning BEFORE they engage in sports.

Through strength and conditioning we can ensure they have the base level of fitness to cope with the demands of their sport and its associated training schedule. Improving their resistance to overuse injuries.

It’s an education process…

Whereas I learnt from the older guys in the gym, who’d learnt from the older guys in the gym, who learnt from the older guy in the gym who learnt it from his brother, who read it in a book he borrowed from his uncle from 1982.

We can now provide young athletes with exposure to high level coaching so they learn how to train properly and maximise the results they get from their training, whilst avoiding unnecessary injuries from poor technique and inappropriate prescription of exercises and/or load.

Prepare them to make the step up to the elite level

When I was playing Rugby Union I got called into the Gloucester Rugby Academy at the age of 16. It was at this point I was invited down to the gym to train with the strength & conditioning coach at the time Paddy Mortimer.

The next months were spent learning to train, learning exercises I needed to have in the locker to develop the physical qualities to perform at the highest level. I was constantly in a state of catch up as I tried to make up ground on the other guys who were training at a much higher level as they’d been doing it longer.

If I’d already learnt the movements and exercises under no load/low load from a much younger age, I could have walked into that training environment and continued on a seamless progression towards high performance.

According to the speakers at the Youth Conference if you start training at 16, like I did, you are 10 years too late.

How should it be delivered?

Training of junior athletes should be overseen by an appropriately qualified coach who can design and deliver a suitable programme.

The emphasis for the younger athlete is to develop technical competency through a range of fundamental movement skills (i.e. running, jumping, hopping, skipping, landing, squatting, pushing and pulling).

It’s not about heavy loads in the gym. That comes over time as their training age increases and their technical competence permits. On our Junior Rugby Camps we start out learning lifting techniques with a piece of PVC pipe.

Dr. Faigenbaum also emphasised that these sessions must be fun, provide them with an opportunity to make new friends and to learn something new. A key part of what they learn is how to move.

What are the benefits?

Enhanced performance

The obvious benefits from engaging in a properly planned and prescribed strength and conditioning programme are the improvements in strength, speed and fitness that can improve performance.

Reduced incidence of non-contact and overuse injuries

By increasing their capacity & tolerance to their sports training young athletes are less likely to suffer overuse injuries.

When proper movement patterns are engrained through good coaching they are less likely to suffer non-contact injuries that usually occur when body positions are compromised.

Increased movement competence leads to increased confidence

Developing muscular strength also drives the development of motor skills that are crucial to being physically active and leading a life full of fitness and health.

A child that is weaker is less likely to perform competently through fundamental movements and that lower level of competence impacts negatively on their confidence.

The knock on then is in an increase in sedentary behaviour and increases the likelihood of adverse health outcomes later in their life.

Considerations for parents, teachers and coaches.

Before we ask young athletes to increase their technical training schedule (e.g. the number of hours of rugby, tennis or whatever sport they are involved in) consider their ability to tolerate that increase in training.

What are you doing to ensure they have the physical capacity to tolerate a high level of training?

Are you providing them with an opportunity to increase their fitness to be able to cope?

Are they getting enough sleep?

Are they eating the right foods to fuel performance as well as repair and grow?

I’ve heard a lot of parents over the last 4 years say, “He/she doesn’t have time to do a fitness session, he/she has school Rugby/Tennis/Swimming/Netball Monday, Thursday and Saturday and club rugby/tennis/swimming/netball Tuesday and Sunday”.

I encourage you to think about the sessions they are involved in, are they all providing a valuable coaching/learning experience?

I know it’s not an easy task as there are battles between club/school for a player’s time but if your son or daughter’s goal is to be the best at what they do.

If a session isn’t providing much can the time be reallocated to specialist conditioning work? Or a different sport that will broaden the development of their skills?

It may be the difference between them hitting early boredom and burning out and achieving their dreams.

If you work with young athletes there is a great opportunity to learn about Long Term Athlete Development with Ian Jeffreys 13th June 2015. Ian is with us to deliver his Future Champions workshop, which covers his tried and trusted training system that has successfully developed International level athletes. There are a limited number of Early Bird Tickets available >>FIND OUT MORE<<