Youth Strength and Conditioning – Understand Growing

Learning about strength and conditioning

Stop training your kids how you would train yourself

Youth strength and conditioning has always been important by as lifestyles are changing it is becoming incredibly more important.

Understanding the adolescence growth of a young athlete will help determine what and when a programme. This is touched on in great detail within my ebook. Research guides practitioners towards the following training means depending on where the young athlete is in their growth cycle. This is commonly known as Peak Height Velocity (PHV):

Pre PHV: jumping and sprinting – highly neural activity

During PHV: Monitor and control loading – especially high amounts of intense activity

Post PHV: Strength, jumps and sprinting – neural and structural changes

Educating coaches about strength and conditioning

Youth Strength and Conditioning during phases of growth.

Now I am going to take you through some of the type of youth strength and conditioning you should be performing during these phased.

During pre peak height velocity, young athletes improve performance testing of acceleration and jump scores largely through ballistic type exercises. This is due to the neural plasticity of the nervous system and the lack of androgen hormones circulating in the immature body.

However, post peak height velocity, adding strength training means alongside jumps and sprinting was found to be the best combination of means to increase performance testing scores when compared to either just strength training or ballistic training. This is due to the up-regulation of circulating androgen hormones to create greater neural and structural changes. Yet there are no real strong recommendations of which type of training are optimal when adolescence athletes are going through their peak height velocity.

The literature suggests monitoring and controlling the exposure of loading modalities by reducing any high volume of intense activity that the athlete performs to try to prevent aggravating immature tendon attachment structures. It’s said that during the adolescence phase, children may be prone to overuse injuries during periods of rapid growth both in height and mass. This rapid growth plus a high training load will lead to problems.

Furthermore, it makes logical sense that pre PHV and during the onset of PHV that isometric and mobility type training should be the cornerstone of the strength programme to generate muscular tendon adaptation.  With a high involvement of the CNS but limit damage to the muscle structure, isometrics for this population will build local muscular work capacity, intra and inter coordination, synchronisation motor units, improve joint stability and rate coding. With a sudden increase in body size during peak height velocity this will have an effect on coordination, balance, running and change of direction. New force absorption and expression strategies need to be retaught as leg length will grow first before the trunk catches up. This is where isometric training can be of great benefit to keep teaching the body, ingraining and reinforcing those motor neural pathways.

Nevertheless, research data show that peak height velocity for males hit on average around 13 years old (12-16) with an average growth of 8.3cm a year. Yet females hit peak height velocity around 11 years old (9-13) with an average growth is 7.8cm a year. There can be a large variability when boys / females hit their growth spurts which can last over different time periods and have various effects on movement quality, motor control and force application.

Calculate PHV

The most proven PHV calculation is taken from the mirwald equation. The data that needs to be collected for this equation is the current date, athlete’s date of birth, current body weight, standing height, seated height and bench height. From this data, a number of interactions need to be calculated to be used with the Mirwald equation. These interactions are leg length and seated height, age and leg length, age and seated height, age and weight and weight to height ratio. Overall, when the equation spits out a Negative value, this means that the young athlete is x years away from hitting their PHV. Yet, when a positive value is expressed, PHV has already begun. This equation isn’t 100% accurate but is a guideline and a useful measuring tool to track chances within an athlete’s growth. 

Nevertheless, Peak Weight Velocity will happen roughly 12-18 months post PHV for boys whilst girls will experience improvement in body composition immediately post PHV. For boys, this is a good opportunity to perform strength work as an uptake of hormones will lead to rapid gains in muscle mass. Moreover, it can be noted that spurts of increased speed and endurance occur before and around PHV with accelerated gains in strength occurred after PHV.

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