Teenagers are not just mini-adults. There are many differences that dictate how to train effectively and safely as a youth athlete. Here are some answers to the frequently asked questions we receive here at the Youth Athletic Development Academy, as well as some myth-busting regarding youth training. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
DOES WEIGHT TRAINING STUNT GROWTH?
No. This is a very common misconception that has zero evidence to support it. Many studies have found no negative impact on skeletal growth or maturation in youth athletes that train with weights, and in actuality: the forces put on the body during jumping and sprinting can be 3-4 times higher when compared to a child squatting with an external weight equivalent to their body weight. See this article for further information.
HOW OLD DO YOUTH ATHLETES NEED TO BE TO JOIN THE YOUTH ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY?
Research has shown that starting athletic development training during pre-adolescence results in a higher potential to achieve optimal motor capacity in adulthood and maximise neuromuscular performance. Our rule of thumb is this: if a child is old enough to play in structured sport classes, stay focused for a 30 minute session and follow instructions, they are old enough.
DO CHILDREN NEED SPORT-SPECIFIC TRAINING?
Firstly, let’s define sport specific training [SST]. Simply, SST is gym-based training that is designed to maximise the athletic qualities specific to a certain sport.
95% of the time when it comes to youth athletes, our answer to this question is no. This is because; in order to create a well rounded, healthy and successful athlete, you must first create a foundation. This includes teaching basic motor patterns [technique], creating basic levels of strength/speed and ensuring adequate mobility and stability around the joints. This can be likened to teaching a math student how to add, subtract and multiply before doing algebra. It just makes sense. Imagine a continuum with general training to the left and SST to the right. As the athlete develops and reaches maturity, they will be able to move further and further to the right as they look to maximise performance. Every athlete must earn the right to progress and ensure they nail the fundamentals before moving onto more advanced training techniques.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOUTH ATHLETES TRAIN IN THE GYM EACH WEEK?
This is a tough one to answer as there are so many different variables that will affect how many times a youth athlete should be training. A typical rule of thumb for high school athletes would be 2-4 formal sessions per week, depending on their training schedule, competition schedule, life stress, recovery, etc. If youth athletes are in the middle of a competitive season — or in the middle of a mentally taxing period, like in exam block — their training schedule will naturally be less frequent than if they were off-season [during the summer holidays, etc]. Each athlete is different, but the overall message here is that balance is essential. Feel free to email our head coach if you need a little more advice in this area.