Teen Strength and Conditioning Program
We have recently started our first official Verdant Fitness Teen Strength and Conditioning Program. Whenever we start a new strength cycle or a new program, I usually dive head first into a bunch of reading and research. It’s always tough to synthesize all the different points of view and theories that have been developed, but there are a few areas of training young adults that most experts agree on. While the athlete is still young, most specialists agree that coaches should place a high emphasis on developing as many skills as possible and beginning to specialize later in the athlete’s development. I’ve spoken to several sport specific coaches and virtually everyone has their own timeline for sport specific specialization and it varies wildly from sport to sport. Sport and strength and conditioning isn’t codified in any meaningful way here in America, so training methodologies and purely subject to the individual coach’s ideology.
With all of the variance in mind, I have done my best to distill the most relevant information and apply it to our program. We are placing a huge emphasis on body control, kinesthetic awareness and functional movement. The latter seems almost like a cop-out given how generalized “functional fitness” can be. To explain further: we will be jumping, crawling, getting inverted, moving forwards, backwards, and laterally. We will also be learning how to squat, press, and pick things up off the ground.
“…we will be jumping, crawling, getting inverted, moving forwards, backwards, and laterally.”
Many of the adults who come to our Sunday gymnastics class have done some of the body control that we are teaching our teenagers. Gymnastics is relevant here because it’s probably the best discipline, in my opinion and experience, for creating good all-around athletes. One of the issues that I see with gymnastics is that, like many other sports, it starts to specialize a little too early. We are taking some of the best pieces of gymnastics training, namely body control, across multiple domains and modalities, and pairing that with basic lifting technique as well as throwing and catching.
The goal is to help our younger students become good athletes. They aren’t going to be taught anything sport specific (other than throwing) because they don’t need to be taught those skills right now. In CrossFit if you can’t do a strict pull up, it doesn’t make much sense to do a kipping pull up, or at least not many at a time. Similarly, if a young athlete can’t do a push up, why are we having them begin to learn complexities of a sport that they won’t be able to succeed in because of a lack of physical strength?
If I have a CrossFit athlete that wants to “work on” muscle ups but they haven’t taken the time to develop their dip, all we are doing is wasting our time on a skill that they can’t achieve. One of the biggest blocks to young athletes is the same block that I find in new competitive young athletes in CrossFit. They come to my gym get strong QUICKLY and get new skills QUICKLY and then they start to see those incredible gains decrease.
It’s not the programming, it’s that they weren’t training correctly. When you train correctly, you see immediate gains. However, everyone has a ceiling and the closer you get, the smaller the gains. Kids are the same way, if you train a child to play only soccer, they are going to be better than most other kids their age up to a certain point, usually right around 16. At that point you need to be an amazing athlete and a good soccer player to start progressing to the NCAA level. If you can’t keep up, you can’t play.
“It’s not the programming, it’s that they weren’t training correctly.”
Why do so many Division III or II players get drafted to the NFL? Because they ran a 4.3 40 yard dash and there aren’t many people that can do that. If they have that physical ability, they can be taught how to play football, provided they can work their way through a playbook.