Is Youth Strength Training Safe?

is Youth strength training safe

Youth Strength Training Safety

Is resistance training safe for youth athletes?  It’s an important question for every coach and parent.

The bad news…

You still hear it the myths. Weight training will stunt your growth.  It will make athletes muscle bound.  It is dangerous for youth athletes.

The good news…

It’s safe and effective. We’ve seen it for 20 years.  Today it’s backed by research and medical leaders.

Health Benefits of Resistance Training for Youth and Adolescents

Resistance training has been show to be safe and also have a number of health benefits. It helps;

  • Body composition
  • Cardiovascular risk profile
  • Reduce body fat
  • Facilitate weight control
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Strengthen bone
  • Enhancing psychosocial wellbeing

RELATED: Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

Is weight training safe for youth?  Here’s some experts answering.

The scientific and medical communities have come to a conclusion. It is that strength training is safe and beneficial for youth athletes.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

strength training helps prevent injury

Stay In The Game

In elite sports there is a lot of emphasis put on injury prevention.  It doesn’t matter how good you are if you are sitting on the bench, hurt.

Teams and athletes look to us to reduce their risk of injury.  We know there are many parts to injury prevention, but the foundation is often strength.

For the last 20 years, Velocity Sports Performance has known that good strength training is injury prevention.

  • Our experience with athletes in 11 Olympic Games backs it up.
  • Our experience with thousands of professional athletes backs it up.
  • A growing body of scientific research is starting to catch up.

is Youth strength training safe

RELATED:  Is Youth Strength Training Safe?

 

Training the young female athlete – Coach Chris Rice

For female athletes, especially field athletes, improving balance and stability will be key when we are talking about reducing the risk of injury.  Today, we talk about on of my favorite prehab exercises to strengthen the hips and reinforce the knee stability, and that is the single leg star step on an airex pad

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

Be safe! Bulletproof your shoulders for baseball

bulletproof your shoulder from injury

Its springtime and that means it’s time for Baseball and Softball. Players and coaches know that maintaining shoulder health is important for these sports, but they don’t always know what to do about it. Use these simple exercises to bulletproof your shoulders and stay in the game.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

In this video, Coach Kenny Kallen shares two exercises that help improve posture and increase mobility in the thoracic spine and latissimus dorsi. Using these exercises in your warm-up will increase functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders. The ultimate result will be better-throwing mechanics and less pain.

Next, Coach Ken Vick explains why shoulder stability is so important for baseball players. He demonstrates the Band Y, T, and W exercises to be used in any warm-up or workout routine. Improve your baseball throwing mechanics by stabilizing your scapula and rotator cuff to control your follow-through. Improvements in this area translate into increased speed, functionality, stability, strength, and power in the shoulders.

Sports Medicine Specialist Wes Rosner shows you how the 1/2 Turkish Get-Up can help bulletproof your shoulder.  It can strengthen and stabilize the shoulders, back, and core to help prevent injury. You want all these strong and stable when it’s game time.

RELATED: Strength Training Is Injury Prevention

Are your offseason gains lost when it matters most?

Tim Hanway MS, CSCS, ASCC, ACSM

Sports Performance Director
Velocity Sports Performance - Norwood

As a professional coach, I have written extensively on a multitude of topics related to strength and conditioning. Whether I am talking about programming, the emotional aspects of training, or the nuts and bolts of coaching, I always come back to the importance of strength.

Strength is, in my opinion, the single most important physical attribute that an athlete can possess; it is quite literally the precursor to all expressions of athleticism. Speed, agility, quickness, explosiveness, and endurance all require strength in different forms. Strength training greatly enhances all of these qualities, which is why adopting a strength-training program that utilizes upper- and lower-body compound movements is perhaps the most effective path to athletic success and longevity.

One of the biggest challenges athletes encounter with strength and conditioning programs is that all the benefits they gain from training are reversible. All the hard work and performance gains an athlete makes during the off-season or pre-season can evaporate when this type of training is not maintained for prolonged periods of time.

The realities of In-season:

People are often surprised and have trouble accepting that they can lose their gains, especially young parents and athletes. The cold, hard truth is that more often than not, practices are simply not focused or intense enough during the season to stress a young athlete’s body enough to develop or maintain strength and fitness levels.

A head coach is, more often than not, focused on his or her own “one thing” during the season: winning. Simply put, priorities change once the season starts! Head coaches are instead more focused on tactics, plays, and improving whatever deficiencies were revealed in the team’s last game than they are on fitness and strength gains.

Let’s consider a basketball team: If they did not recover enough rebounds during the last game, that coach is definitely going to have the athletes work on lots of ‘box out’ drills in order to re-enforce technique and try to remedy the situation. Likewise, if the team’s offense wasn’t functioning properly, chances are that same coach is going to spend a significant amount of time in practice that week walking through all the plays at a moderate pace in order to “iron out the kinks” and fix any confusion.

What does this mean from an observational and practical standpoint? Most likely, the five starters on the team will go through the plays at a moderate intensity (at best) while the remaining 10 players stand around and watch from the sideline for prolonged periods of time. The truth is, almost any team’s in-season practice is going to consist of a lot of standing around, talking, and direction from the coach, with much less time dedicated to all-out scrimmages or drills attempting to simulate game-day conditions. This is supported by a scientific study conducted by Wellman and colleagues (2007) that compared the differences between pre-season and in-season practices and game times among NCAA Division I football players.

Whether discussing the height of collegiate sport or your average middle-school or high school team, studies like this one show that athletes simply do not experience the same kind of workloads during the in-season period compared to pre-season. The result is that players get weaker – literally losing strength.

In a study performed on elite male rugby and football players, McMaster and colleagues (2013) found that strength levels have a tendency to decrease after a three-week period when no form of strength activity is maintained. In addition, according to Meylan and colleagues (2013), the decay rates of strength parameters for youth athletes can show an even more marked difference, especially for those athletes who have not yet hit their growth spurt. According to the researchers, these athletes lost more strength and lost it even more quickly as compared to their peers who had already hit their growth spurt.

The Good News:

There are some very practical solutions that athletes can employ in order to mitigate the negative effects of the paradoxical in-season strength and fitness loss. If the mantra ‘use it or lose it’ applies – and it does – the simple solution is to ‘use it’ by strength training in-season. This does not mean that an in-season strength program should be the same as an off- or pre-season program. We know that athletes are spending a lot of time in practices and games, all of which require physical resources and take a toll on the body.

In a study conducted on male handball players (Hermassi et al. 2017), researchers found that as few as two sessions per week were sufficient for athletes to maintain their performance gains, while another study found that so long as intensity was kept high, athletes were able to maintain their performance gains with as little as one session per week (Bell et al. 1993).

Call to Action:

What can you do to safeguard and maximize your son or daughter’s performance gains that they worked so hard for during the off- and pre-season?

The answer is this:

Maintain an in-season strength and conditioning routine that can be executed in a little as one hour per week.

Our experience – and the experience of the athletes who train with us – confirms that this is all it takes to make sure they finish the season just as strong as they were at the start. In addition to meaning these athletes perform well during the season it also means that their strength improvements do not have to be regained at the end of each season, effectively accelerating their performance at a rate greater than their peers.

References:

Bell, G. J., Syrotuik, D. G., Attwood, K., & Quinney, H. A. (1993). Maintenance of Strength Gains While Performing Endurance Training in Oarswomen. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology,18(1), 104-115. doi:10.1139/h93-010

4 Myths about Muscle Pliability You Need to Know

Trainer performing graston technique

The term “muscle pliability” has been in the news around the NFL quite a bit. Tom Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, claim that making muscles pliable is the best way to sustain health and performance. How true is that claim? While it’s a great descriptive term, we are going to shed some light on what it really means and how to create muscle pliability.

Defining Words

Our performance coaches, sports medicine specialists, and tissue therapists all find it to be a useful term.  Pliable expresses some of the important qualities of muscle. According to Miriam-Webster Dictionary here’s what pliable means:

Pliable

a: supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly without breaking

b: yielding readily to others

c: adjustable to varying conditions

That’s a pretty good description for many of the qualities we want in the tissue of an athlete (or any human for that matter). The problem is that it’s being mixed up with a lot of inaccurate and confusing statements.

Our Sports Medicine Specialist, Misao Tanioka, says that “the word pliability, in my opinion, depicts the ideal muscle tissue quality. It is similar to suppleness, elasticity, or resilience. Unfortunately, I believe some of the explanations offered by Mr. Brady and Mr. Guerrero have created some misunderstanding of what ‘muscle pliability’ really is.”

Let’s try and separate some of the myths from what is true.

Myth 1: Muscles that are “soft” are better than dense

That depends on what qualifies as “soft” muscle.  Tissue Specialist Cindy Vick has worked on hundreds of elite athletes, including NFL players and Olympians across many sports. “Soft isn’t a word I would use for an athlete. When I’m working on an elderly client, I often feel muscles that could be called soft; they’re not dense. That’s not what I feel when working on elite athletes. Athletes who are healthy and performing well have muscles that have density without being overly tense and move freely. The tissue is still smooth and supple.”

This muscle quality is affected by many factors, ranging from stress, competition, nutrition, training, and recovery. At Velocity, maintaining optimal tissue quality is a constant endeavor.  Proper self myo-fascial release, various stretching techniques, and manual therapy are all part of the equation.

Myth 2: Dense muscles = stiff muscles = easily injured athletes

Relating these terms in this way grossly over-simplifies the reality and is in some ways completely wrong.

You have to start with the operative word: “dense.” Tanioka says, “Dense tissue can be elastic; elastic tissue is resilient to injury. What we have to look for is inelastic tissue.” Cindy Vick adds that “if you mean ‘dense’ to refer to a muscle with adhesions, or that doesn’t move evenly and smoothly, then yes, that’s a problem.”

Scientifically, stiffness refers to how much a muscle resists stretch under tension. It’s like thinking about the elastic qualities of a rubber band. The harder it is to pull, the stiffer it is. If a muscle can’t give and stretch when it needs to, that’s bad.

Imagine a rubber band that protects your joint. When a muscle exerts force against the impact of an opponent or gravity, stiffness can help resist the joint and ligaments from being overloaded and consequently injured.

“I agree with Mr. Brady’s statement about the importance of a muscle’s ability to lengthen, relax and disperse high-velocity, heavy incoming force to avoid injury.” says Tanioka. “However, I think that athletes also must be able to exert maximum power whether actively generating force or passively resisting an incoming stress, which requires the ability to shorten and be taut and firm as well as well as lengthen. The ability of tissue to be durable and contractile is just as important as to elongate and soften when it comes to performance and injury prevention.”

In the view of our experts, it’s not about dense, soft, stiff, or other qualitative words. Instead, they emphasize developing function through different types of strength qualities athletes need.   Athletes must prepare for the intense stress and strain their muscles will face in their sport.  They need to blend the right strength training with mobility and flexibility.

 

Myth 3: Strength training makes muscles short

“It’s an old wives’ tale that took hold when body building techniques had a big influence on strength and conditioning. A muscle can be incredibly strong without sacrificing any range of motion” according international expert and President of Velocity Sports Performance, Ken Vick, who has worked with athletes in 10 Olympic Games and helped lead the Chinese Olympic Committee’s preparation efforts for 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I’ll give you two great examples: Gymnasts are, pound-for-pound, very strong and incredibly explosive, yet they are known to be some of the most flexible athletes. Olympic weightlifters are clearly some of the strongest athletes in the world and are also generally very flexible. They spend practically every day doing strength training and their muscles aren’t ‘short’.”

RELATED: Why Athletic Strength Is More Than Just How Much Weight Is on The Barbell. 

In fact, proper lifting technique demands excellent flexibility and mobility. For example, poor hip flexor flexibility or limited ankle mobility results in an athlete who probably cannot reach the lowest point of a back squat. Our proven methods combine strength training with dynamic mobility, movement training, and state of the art recovery technology to help our athletes gain and maintain the flexibility and mobility required for strength training and optimal performance on the field of competition.

 

Myth 4: Plyometrics and band training are better for pliability

We hear these types of claims time and again from coaches, trainers, and others who are quoting something they’ve read without much knowledge of the actual training science. Our muscles and brain don’t care if the resistance is provided by bodyweight, bands, weights, cables, or medicine balls. They can all be effective or detrimental, depending on how they are used.

Sport science has shown that manipulating different variables influences both the physiological and neurological effects of strength training. Rate of motion, movement patterns, environment, and type of resistance all influence the results.

Truth: Muscle Pliability is a good thing

Like so many ideas, muscle pliability is very good concept. The challenge lies in discerning and then conveying what is true and what is not. An experienced therapist can, within just a few moments of touching a person, tell whether that tissue is healthy. A good coach can tell whether an athlete has flexibility or mobility problems, or both, simply by watching them move.

In either case, it takes years of experience and understanding of the human body and training science, like that which is possessed by the performance and sports medicine staff at Velocity, to correctly apply a concept like muscle pliability to an athlete’s training program.

4 Important Things You Need to Know Before You Do High-Intensity Workouts

hIIT training

High intensity interval training, CrossFit, and bootcamps are all popular and effective ways to exercise. While they are great methods to improve your fitness and performance, there is also a risk of injury if you don’t approach it intelligently.

Results and Risk

These programs often include skilled movements and explosive exercises like plyometrics and other high-intensity movements. Olympic lifts, sprints, power lifts, and variations on gymnastics are also common.

The benefits of these types of exercises are that they stimulate maximal muscle engagement and quickly take joints through their full range of motion. However, the same qualities that make these movements so effective also makes them very challenging if you haven’t been doing much fitness training.

“They are great exercises to get results because they are ground-based, engage multiple joints and muscles groups, and have high intensity” says Coach Ken Vick, high performance director for Velocity Sports Performance. “They are more athletic, but with that comes some risk of injury just as in sport. The key is to know your limits and follow good coaching.”

Keys to Success

Vick says for those who are interested in training this way, there are Four Steps for Success:

Assess your own readiness.

Have you done these types of workouts in the past? Do you have past injuries? Are there limitations in your joint range of motion? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to get some guidance before you start. A qualified coach can help assess if you’re ready, and a sports medicine professional can help identify any injury risks and how to alleviate them.

You don’t have to be in great shape before you can start taking these kinds of classes, but you do need to realistically assess your readiness with the help of professionals. They can give you a roadmap to a safe starting point.

Check your ego at the door

One of the benefits of these programs is the energy and intensity that comes from training with a group of people all pushing through a challenging workout together. Be wary that you don’t let pride and ego tell you to push yourself farther than you should, lest you pay some painful consequences.“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard someone say: I knew I was pushing myself too far,” says Coach Vick. “There will always be others better than you at any given exercise or workout. They may be younger or older, male or female.”

The key is to change your focus from competing with others to competing with yourself. Focus on improving your skills, technique, results, and your own PRs and you will not only get better, but you will stay safe.

Find an on-boarding class 

Find a class that on boards you with a coach who can get you involved safely rather than joining an advanced, competitive class. A good coach teaches you the correct mechanics and form for exercises and has variations to adapt them to your needs and skill level.

Know when to stop

Severe pain is always a red flag. While soreness is normal, the amount of soreness you experience with workouts should decrease as your body adapts over the first few weeks.If you experience joint pain, swelling or instability, stop. See a sports medicine specialist for evaluation. They can figure out how to eliminate the pain and how you can correct the underlying causes. They should work with you and your coach to adapt your training so you can keep building fitness while fixing your injury.

Research has shown that when an experienced coach or trainer is involved, the rate of any kind of injury decreases dramatically.

To prevent injury from happening in the first place, it’s very important to perform an active or dynamic warm-up to prepare the muscles to work at high speeds or under heavy loads. Some programs incorporate a warm-up into the workout, while others will show you what to do and give you time to do it beforehand.

Train Harder, and Smarter

Adding the intensity, motivation, and fun of these kinds of programs can inject new energy into your fitness regimen. All of these elements can help you work harder and push your fitness to a higher level than ever before. If you’re smart and follow these four keys, you can reap all the benefits and avoid injury.