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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.

 

Elite Performance Pathway Open Evening 15/04/2015

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forathletesEPP

 

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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#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:

Resistance Training Matrix

Proformance Movement Matrix

Resistance Training Matrix

This resistance training movement matrix is designed to provide a progressive pathway of exercises for athletes young and old to develop their strength and power.

The prescription of sets, reps and loads is going to be dictated by the athletes biological age, training age and the objectives you are working towards and I would recommend working within the framework outlined in the UKSCA’s Youth Resistance Training Position Statement if you are working with athletes under the age of 18.

How they progress within each category will vary and they maybe operating at Level 5 in one category and Level 3 in another. Progression to the next level for me will be determined by technical competency in the previous level and completing a 3 week progression  of 8, 10 and 12 reps against bodyweight. Once an athlete can complete 3 sets of 12 reps with good technique I will move them up to the next level. After they have progressed through this I will then look at adding additional load.

It is worth noting that resistance training exercises should be included as part of a well rounded programme that also focuses on the development of flexibility, mobility, speed, agility and reactive strength (stretch shortening cycle) qualities.

Credits

The content of the movement matrix certainly isn’t original has been inspired by a number of sources and my own experience developing athletes of all ages. The broad categories are based upon those outlined in Rhodri Lloyd’s recent textbook Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes for developing fundamental movement skills. Some of the exercise progressions particularly the single leg exercises have been strongly influenced by the work of Mike Boyle, and other coaches I have had the pleasure of talking to and working with such as Ed Archer and Rich Clarke of the Athlete Academy and Henry Davies at Cheltenham College. Credit must also go to John Noonan who introduced the concept of a movement matrix during his presentation at the UKSCA Annual Conference 2014.