Short discussion on when and how young athletes should be trained to maximize their athletic ability for high school athletics and beyond.
A common question from parents is, "What age should my kid start a serious strength training program?"The answer is not exact because puberty, hormones and genetics are the ultimate factor when answering that question. Here we outline typical development periods, ages and what each athlete can expect.
Free play is recommended for children under the age of 8. Complex movements like a squat or push-up is more beneficial for neural development than for physical development. Physical activity at young age is proven to stimulate mental activity. Brain development can help athletes and will provide a life time of positive benefits.
At approximately 8-9 years of age balance should be automatic and running patterns begin to be established. This is the age where sprint mechanics should be refined. Accomplishing proper running mechanics will allow athletes to be faster as they develop strength gains in future years.
(Sprint mechanics are covered in an 8 week program through Coachataclick Fitness App and web portal.)
At the 9-13 years old range is when growth spurts are at their greatest. At 11 years and 8 months old is the typical peak in growth. Parents may notice a slight decline in coordination during this age range. Some experts recommend holding athletes out of competitive sports at this age to preserve confidence and minimize the mental effects of a slight decline in performance due to growth spurts. The focus during these years should be agility combined with bodyweight exercises. We encourage athletes to participate in multiple sports in order to achieve balanced muscle development and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Examples of overuse injuries during growth spurt's are shin splints, little league elbow, and tendinitis. Stretching is one way to reduce negative effects of growth spurt's and injury.
During the 13-14 year old range we know that hormones are at a level where some strength gains can be experienced. An introductory weight training program is best for athletes in this age range to develop proper mechanics of power lifts like squat, deadlift, and power cleans. Body weight exercises performed at fast speeds will begin to develop type 2b muscle fibers as fast twitch muscles fibers.
As female athletes approach 15 years of age, they begin to develop muscle definition. This is the ideal time to begin an aggressive year round weight training program. Finding a sport specific periodization model will optimize muscular development. This is a common age where athletes begin to specialize in their primary sport.
Growth and hormone timing can not be predicted. These age ranges are average expected development stages. If athletes are way behind, too little or too much body fat may be effecting hormones in the body. If you feel like this may be an issue, consult your pediatrician.
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