If you’re a parent of a youth athlete you’ve probably spent a good amount of time wondering what you need to do to help them in their sport. Unless you were an athlete yourself, have people in your circle who know, or maybe you’re involved to some extent in the fitness industry, knowing what to do for your child can be a real challenge. I have a daughter who’s 4, and when she’s ready I know exactly what I want her first step in her journey of athletics to be and its developing functional strength. Functional strength training as it applies to athletes teaches them how to handle their own body weight, incorporating balance and proprioception (body awareness). This is to me one of the most important aspects of development you can build with an athlete as young as 5 or 6. Now before you freak out over the idea that strength development at this age can stunt an athletes growth its important to understand 3 things:
- Strength training for young athletes can damage growth plates when there is no emphasis on proper form, and the load lifted is above what an athlete can handle.
- Functional exercises that consist of handling body weight for improved performance is appropriate because this is something young athletes will need to do in their actual sport.
- Speed and agility are extensions of strength. Strength is the most important asset an athlete can possess because it improves performance and keeps them healthy.
With that in mind, here are 3 great strength exercises from the Boost Performance Center in Corona CA for youth athletes that you can do with your child right at home.
- Rows/Pull Ups – These are exercises that can and should be performed with bands. I’ve written previously about the benefits of upper back strength as it relates to athletic performance in my blog post 3 Benefits of Rows for Speed Development. Helping athletes build better posture and torso stability is great for all aspects of athleticism.
- Split Squats – The split squat exercise is a very effective and simple single leg exercise for beginners that is super specific to sprinting. I’ve mentioned in my blog post 5 Strength Exercises for Speed Development that there are many different single leg exercises that young athletes can learn that require minimal to no weight at all. The ability to express stability and strength through one leg should be developed as early as possible.
- Push-ups – While I like teaching my young athletes this exercise you can place an asterisk here because many young athletes can’t properly do a push-up. Typically they lack core and upper body strength, so some regression will probably be needed here such as an elevated push-up, or even kneeling push-ups. But the fact that you get to build core stability and upper body strength in this simple exercise gives it a lot of bang for your buck and of course it’s very safe for youth athletes as well.
There are many things you can do for your young daughter or son for their development as an athlete. Just make sure it’s appropriate, and getting involved early with bodyweight strength exercises will help build a solid foundation for their future. And remember, you get in shape to play sports, you don’t use sports to get in shape. -Boostman
Owner, Boost Training Systems in Corona, CA
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance