STRENGTH AND RESISTANCE TRAINING FOR THE PREADOLESCENT ATHLETE
The off-season is the time to look back to see how we can improve and it’s time to look forward to see how we can make our sons and players better athletes. For those who play other sports, well and good. Anything that makes players more athletic will be beneficial. As kids get older they will be able to more intelligently choose their sport.
But strength conditioning can be beneficial for young baseball players and can enhance their athletic ability.
Resistance Training has proven to be a safe and effective component of conditioning programs for the pre-adolescent player. But different guidelines should be followed when designing a resistance training program based on the age of the athlete. The first thing is to define terms. Preadolescent refers to the athlete who has yet to develop sexual characteristics; usually up to 13 years of age in male players. Adolescent refers to the time between puberty and adulthood; usually 14-18 years in males. And adulthood refers to the time after adolescence when full maturity is reached; over 18.
Here are the goals of resistance training in young baseball players. These should be the goals of any age player but the point is that they can be achieved in the young ones.
1. Improve muscular strength.
2. Improve muscular endurance.
3. Prevent injuries.
4. Enhance sport performance.
These are the benefits:
• An increase in muscular strength in preadolescents is attributed to changes in neuromuscular control. Because kids don’t have adequate levels of male hormones circulating in their bodies, there will not be significant hypertrophy. (Enlargement of body parts) So, the gains are not in bigger muscles but in better “motor” skills. As the player matures into adolescence, resistance training will produce a greater degree of hypertrophy due to the increased levels of testosterone.
• Resistance training enhances muscular endurance because the kids are working with very low loads and this allows them to achieve a higher volume of reps. This will cause a higher heart rate and offers the potential benefit of cardiovascular endurance.
• Another benefit of starting at a young age is that the player will build tolerance to higher loads over time.
• Participation in resistance training may aid in the prevention of injuries because of:
1. The increase in motor coordination.
2. Development of strength and dynamic stabilization (core strength) to withstand the forces of competition.
3. The enhancement of muscular endurance will help players endure fatigue and prevent overuse injuries.
• Athletic performance may be enhanced by resistance training. Baseball relies one explosive strength; hitting, throwing, pitching, diving for a ball, or running the base paths.
The development of muscular endurance helps maintain strength for longer periods of time, such as pitching an entire game or having the stamina to compete in the first inning as well as in the last.
Below are guidelines for Youth resistance Training.
1. Teach proper technique for all exercises including proper breathing.
2. All training should be closely supervised by a trained person. (Most injuries occur because of improper instruction, technique and supervision.
3. Exercises should be performed in a controlled manner and ballistic motions should be avoided.
Here are some Tips for working with children.
• Technique is more important than the amount of weight.
• Warm up by performing 10 minutes of light aerobic and stretching exercises. (Our jog, stretch and form running routine works well.)
• Balance between upper and lower body. (Upper one day and lower the next.)
• Keep the exercises simple.
• Preadolescents should not lift maximal or near-maximal weights. Keep that load low.
• Begin by establishing a 6-10 repetition maximum.
• Three to five pound dumbbells are good weights to use.
• Stress proper technique.
Examples of exercises that younger players can perform:
• Push ups
• calf raises
• leg lifts
• Rope roll ups (strengthens the wrist).
A coach or dad can design his own program. Keep it light and simple. This is more of an introduction than a heavy workout. Above all, if it is not fun the kids won’t want to do it. Challenge but don’t push. This is not an “Everybody go out and teach your kids how to lift weights” article. We have merely put it before you as an example if you want to introduce your young son or players to resistance training.
Resistance training becomes a way of life for most athletes. It would not hurt to start at a young age.