Youth Athlete Weightlifting

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Recently had the opportunity to publish some content over at STACK

The article discusses a common mistake athletes and coaches make when first programming pullups into an athletes program. Be sure to check the article out HERE.

If your an athlete that is struggling with injuries or wants to take there performance to the next level. Contact On Track Physical Therapy to see how we can help!

Exercises for Athletes #4 - Box Jump with Drop Step

Box Jumps with Drop Step - This is a mid level plyometric exercise that is excellent for building and displaying vertical jump power. More specifically it is a great exercise to develop your two foot jumping capabilities. In addition to squats and deadlifts, this exercise can make significant changes to increase your vertical. By performing a drop step you are creating a more dynamic environment for the athlete by allowing them to perform a quick counter movement prior to jumping. It will also teach the athlete how to properly gather their feet prior to jumping which is very applicable to many sports.

Find a box that is appropriate to skill level. While facing sideways to the box, perform a quarter turn by first moving your inside foot followed by the outside foot. Explode up to the box, land under control with both knees in line with your middle toe.

Why are kids injured more often in sports?

Below is a great article written by Cordelia Carter, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. It explains why early sport specialization may not be the best route to develop athletes or keep them injury free. In addition, the lack of an off-season is leading to increased exposure to potential injuries and possibly developing overuse injuries. Read it here: Why are kids injured more often in sports

The lazy man's summary:

“Gone are the days when kids played multiple sports with breaks both during and between seasons. Today, kids specialize in one sport from increasingly young ages.”

“As a result, pediatric sports surgeons like myself have seen dizzying increases in the number of sport-related injuries in child and adolescent athletes. In New York state alone, the rate of ACL reconstructions performed on children aged 3-20 more than doubled from 1990 to 2009.”

“One recent study found that junior elite tennis players who specialized in tennis had a 50% higher rate of injury than those who played other sports. Another group of researchers determined that the rate of anterior knee pain among adolescent female athletes who specialize in one sport (e.g., basketball, soccer, or volleyball) is 1.5 times greater than those who play multiple sports. Young baseball pitchers who pitch more than 100 innings per year have been reported to have an injury rate 3.5 times greater than those who pitch less.”

“There is evidence demonstrating that kids who play multiple sports while they’re young and wait to specialize until the early teenage years are actually better athletes. For example, one recent study described survey results from 376 female Division I intercollegiate athletes. Of these elite-level athletes, 83% had participated in multiple sports as youngsters (three sports per athlete) and the average age of sport specialization was 13 years.”


My 2 cents:

Early sports specialization and the combination of increased sedentariness in children is a very dangerous combination.  Kids are sitting in classrooms for a good part of the day, and now, more and more kids spend the remainder of the day either on their phone or playing on the computer/video games. After school sports is a structured playtime, as they are put through drills and taught a sport. Kids still get some random play time by way of gym/recess; however, you could argue that this has become devalued and even turned into more of a structured play time. Random play is important because it exposes kids to a variety of movement patterns reactively in a stimulating environment. Games like tag or climbing on playgrounds teaches young kids how to move naturally. Structured environments or playing only one particular sport exposes kids to only a few movements in a repetitive fashion.

Therefore, as a parent, you can help out by encouraging your kids to play multiple sports and partake in games/random play. However, we need to take this one step further. Overtraining or overexposure is very dangerous too. Having some resemblance of an off-season is very important.

So your kid plays football, basketball, and baseball. Alright great! Football and basketball create a similar wear and tear on the body, so playing baseball is a good change of pace and allows the lower body to rest.  However, I see far too many kids playing baseball and AAU or travel ball (name your sport) at the same time. Now you have just created an environment of increased exposure to injury. It does not take a mathematician to figure out that the more games you play during the year, the risk for injury will automatically rise. The exposure obviously rises if you go from playing 50 basketball games in a year to 75-100 games. I would argue that the risk for injury starts to compound at this time as well, because they are playing in a physically fatigued/burnt out state now (mentally burnt out; maybe yes, maybe no).

So please help your youth athletes out by encouraging random play. Make an effort to expose them to a variety of sports at a young age, and then specialize as they mature. Finally, some form of an off-season from intense competition will help avoid mental and physical burnout in youth athletes.

Exercises for Athletes #3 - Single Leg Box Jumps

Single Leg Box Jumps - This exercise is a mid-level explosive jump or plyometric that is great for athletes to develop explosive power. This is a great exercise for athletes, and can be easily implemented into a youth athlete's strength and conditioning program Find a box that comes up to your kneecap or one that is appropriate to skill level. Explode off of one leg, and land on the opposite foot as softly as possible. Knee should stay in line with your middle toe upon landing.

Prior to implementing this exercise into a youth athlete’s program, be sure they have developed competency to jump and land under control from a two footed jump first.  This way the athlete can properly demonstrate the ability to adequately decelerate from two legs prior to progressing to a single leg explosive activity.

It also acts as a great preventative exercise because it teaches the athlete to decelerate dynamic forces under control. This is why the athlete should focus on trying to land as softly as possible absorbing forces on their opposite leg.

Be sure to keep the reps fairly low here 3-6 reps per leg to allow for recovery, maximal exertion during exercise, and solid technique. The amount of sets will be dependent on the athletes fitness levels and the goal they are trying to accomplish from the particular workout.

ACL Prevention. The Importance of Youth Coaches

For top notch ACL rehabilitation in Ann Arbor, Mi contact On Track PT and Performance.

Calling all you coaches, athletes, therapists and trainers out there, it's time for us all to face facts; we've failed as an industry in protecting our clients from ACL injuries.

Even with all the BS "ACL Injury Prevention" programs specializing in reducing the incidence of non-contact injuries, the most recent statistics show an INCREASE in ACL injuries in active populations.

Time to stop patting ourselves on our backs (coaches and researchers) and realize that what we've been doing over the last two decades to combat this monumental problem is just not working.

You know what will work and has been a proven track record for hundreds of years? Old school, traditional strength and conditioning. Maybe try and master that, ingrain some sound movement patterns in your athletes and just maybe then they can stay on the field long enough to make a dent in their athletic potential.

Full article available  via by Dr. Greg Schaible.

Exercises for Athletes #2 - Goblet Squat

The Goblet Squat is a great lift to teach proper technique to a youth athlete or beginning lifter while still eliciting a training effect.  Due to the anterior load of the weight, it allows the lifter to better obtain a squat position as the weight will act as a counter balance. For this reason, a Goblet Squat will actually start to improve squat mobility by gaining control over deeper ranges of motion in the squat position while still maintaining a neutral spine. Once optimal squat depth is obtained with a neutral spine you can then start to focus on increasing load and time under tension. The amount of load you can perform with this lift is limited. However as youth athlete or beginning lifter, ultimately your main goal is time under tension.  In other words, performing set/rep ranges of 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps will give you a baseline level of strength needed to then progress to a lift that will allow for greater loads such as a box squat. As the athlete progresses in his strength and lifting technique, the Goblet Squat will remain a great tool for warm ups or accessory lifts. 

Exercises For Athletes #1 - Drop Jump Landing

The Drop Jump Landing is a entry level exercise to shock plyometric training. It teaches an athlete how to decelerate and absorb forces. The best athletes all have the ability to quickly absorb and transmit a high amount of force over a short period of time. This exercise can also be used for injury prevention. It is commonly included in ACL prevention programs because research has shown that a possible cause for non-contact injury is the lack of ability to absorb a large amount of force in a short period of time. This exercise should be programmed into a youth athlete's training routine in addition to some sort of squat variation. An athletes' training superset may look something like this: A) Box Squat 4 x 5  B) Drop Jump Landing 4 x 2.