Is speed training appropriate for adolescents? (Part I and II)

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Is speed training appropriate for adolescents?

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Brian Grasso considers the benefits of speed training for young athletes.

You see the promotional material everywhere, from sporting-based magazines to television and radio commercials. SPEED TRAINING! Speed… an elusive commodity that all successful athletes require. But how should younger athletes develop it?

A key element to consider when working with teenaged athletes is the degree of growth they are currently experiencing. A growth spurt occurs when bones elongate from the proximal and distal ends. Osteoblastic activity occurs which makes the bone both longer and eventually stronger. Needing attention during this time is the impact bone growth has on the muscular system as bone grows significantly faster than muscle. The implications of this are that during and shortly after a growth spurt, the entire muscular system is placed under a great deal of strain (which typically accounts for why adolescents incurring growth are often sore).

Picture this from a practical perspective. Make a fist with both hands, but stick your first fingers out. Hook an elastic band around both your left and right outstretched fingers. Now slowly pull your hands apart from each other. What happened to the elastic? It got very stretched out and was placed under significant tone. That is exactly what happens to your muscles when bone grows. Elasticity is decreased while tone is increased.

Another issue plaguing adolescents during growth is awkward movement. This is a similar type of situation as the muscular tone issue; bone growth happens faster than the body’s ability to reorient itself to the new length. All of the habits we exhibit, from our thought patterns to the way we move, are housed as ‘facts’ in pathways programmed into the brain. Once ingrained, these pathways are difficult to alter.

Full Artilce Part 1

Brian Grasso reviews the impact of flexibility, strength and speed training for young athletes and their coaches

In part one of my article (see Issue 11 of the Successful Coaching Newsletter (April 2004)) ‘Is speed training appropriate for adolescents’, I discussed the concern of inappropriate power, strength and hypertrophy training with pubescent athletes. One of the main concerns I have with respect to trainers working with our younger athletes is their lack of knowledge in reference to the science of human development and, moreover, how that translates into incorrect programming.

Smart Training

Understanding the simple fact that ‘hard work’ does not necessarily equate to ‘smart training’ is of the utmost importance. Many sport training facilities and individual trainers pride themselves on providing excessively hard training sessions that leave the young athlete feeling exhausted at the end. Now, there is nothing wrong with working hard and I certainly have no objections to young athletes training to the point of fatigue. The problem however, is that more often than not, the ‘hard work’ is just that… hard work. Training sessions need to be developed with the long term needs of the athlete squarely in focus. Six week training packages at three sessions per week (which is very typical for sport training facilities) address nothing more than short term fitness needs and NOT long term athletic needs. Remember, we want all of our young athletes to have long and successful athletic careers, with the eventual goal of becoming a functionally fit and healthy adult. There is no short term solution for that.

Full Article Part 2

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