WHAT YOUR GYM TRAINING SHOULD LOOK LIKE
Typically, when I ask a youth athlete about their previous gym training, I get one of the following responses:
• I do HIIT (high intensity interval training) a couple of times per week, or
• Monday is chest and arms, Wednesday is abs and cardio, etc
Now, I am not here to bash either of the above methods of training. However, I will say that if you are a youth athlete (or any athlete for that matter) looking to optimise your development and performance whilst reducing your risk of injury, there are better ways to go about it.
Based on how to best structure your gym training sessions, below are a few things that you need to start incorporating into your gym training program:
• Firstly, make sure you are training multiple physical qualities and energy systems. Train strength, power, speed, mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, aerobic and anaerobic. Don’t get stuck in one training modality; train the whole spectrum and build a diverse range of movement competencies.
• Build a foundation of strength through six key foundational movement patterns:
1. Upper body push: this includes push ups, shoulder press and bench press.
2. Upper body pull: including rows and pull ups.
3. Lower body push: including squats and lunges.
4. Lower body pull: including deadlifts and kettlebell swings.
5. Core bracing through exercises that stabilise the spine in all planes of motion: including planks, side planks, dead bugs, bird dogs, supine bridges and carries.
• Train single limb movements (unilateral training). This involves performing exercises that isolate one arm or one leg at a time. This includes exercises like lunges, dumbbell bench press, suitcase carry and single leg RDL.
• Incorporate an effective and efficient warm up. Too often I see people either: a) just go straight into their strength movements, or b) hop on the bike for five minutes as their warm up. Instead, follow this procedure to get the most out of your session:
1. Raise your heart rate. There are so many ways you can do this, varying from skipping to jogging, mobility flowers to the speed ladder, etc.
2. Mobilise your joints by moving them through their range of motion. Make this specific to your needs and the workout ahead. For example, if you are performing squats, make sure to increase thoracic mobility through windmills, hip mobility through light goblet squats and/or couch stretch, and ankle mobility through ankle rocks (dorsiflexion).
3. Stabilise joints by activating the muscles surrounding the joints. Again, this should be specific to your needs and the workout ahead. Example exercises include: clams, supine bridge, no money, wall slides, balancing, etc.
4. Potentiate: light the nervous system up by performing explosive movements such as hops, jumps, bounds and throws.
• Utilise the theory of progressive overload to get a positive adaption from your training. This refers to the gradual increase in stress that you place on your body. Simply, this is doing more, over time. Not necessarily doing more in the short-term (session to session), but doing more in the long-term. There will be periods of relative rest that you must utilise. However, gradual long-term overload is key. There are many ways that you can do this in the weight room. Examples include: increasing weight, reps, sets, range of motion, time under tension, speed, decreasing rest time or changing difficulty of exercises performed.
• Finally, and probably most importantly — technique is king. If you are not performing an exercise with the specific prescribed technique, you will:
1. Increase your risk of injury.
2. Not get the desired adaptation from the exercise.
3. Decrease your performance in the exercise, not letting you lift as much weight, or do as many reps/sets, or be as efficient.
Learning how to train effectively takes time and effort (believe me — I have dedicated my whole career towards it!). Avoid learning the hard way from your mistakes, and ask a Strength & Conditioning coach the questions you may have. As always, my DMs are always open should you want some assistance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harry Weatherstone is the founder of the Youth Athletic Development Academy and the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at St. Andrew’s Anglican College. He is an ASCA accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach and has a Bachelors Degree in Sport and Exercise Science and Sport Management. Harry has been a sports coach for the last nine years, surrounding himself in high performance sport, athletic development and performance throughout New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and now Queensland. He has dedicated the last six years of his life to creating this movement in youth athletic development; investing countless hours into his own professional development to create the best programs possible for his students, athletes and clients.