The rewards children obtain from playing sports are unlike any other on this planet, but they come with a major risk: injury. A solid strength and conditioning program for a young athlete can help reduce that risk. Your child’s body will be more prepared for the jumping, cutting, running and lifting that takes place in all sports and in their daily life.
Children’s bodies simply are not ready to make big gains in size and strength yet, especially if they have not hit puberty. The main benefit a child will get out of strength program is neuromuscular adaptation, the connection between their brain and muscle will be stronger. Your child will be able to move and control their bodies better than they did before which ultimately reduces the chance of injury.
Here are five movement patterns kids can do to help reduce the risk of injuries from sports. Remember, they are not adults yet so don’t worry about how much weight they use. Concentrate on proper form.
For the exercises: Do two sets of eight to 12 reps per set. Keep the workouts under 30 minutes and make it fun.
1. Squatting /Jumping
- When it is used in sports: Squatting down to scoop up a grounder, picking up a body in wrestling, hitting a bump in volleyball, basically any time they extend their hips. Jumping is used in nearly every sport. Whether they are jumping up and down or side to side, there are a lot of muscles being used and a lot of strain is being placed on the knee joint. The last thing we ever want kids to go through is a torn ACL, which is a very common injury. When we squat, we mainly use our quads, followed by the glutes (the butt muscles), then followed by our hamstrings and calves.
- What you should look for: The main thing I look for when watching a squat is the knees. You never want to see your kids knees buckle in as they squat. This places unwanted stress on the medial ligaments of the knee joint and ankle joint. The next thing I look for is for their weight to be on their heels. When they are at the bottom of a squat, tell them to wiggle their toes so that you know they are pushing through their heel.
- What you can do: Body weight squats, Low height box jumps.
For the box jumps: Keep the height low. Focus on their landing, you should see them land with knees bent and their shoulders right over their knees. Do not let their knees cave in on the landing.
- When it is used in sports: Throwing a baseball, pushing an opponent away, getting up from the ground, a bump set in volleyball are examples of pushing in sports.
- What you should look for: You want to see muscle symmetry — the right side must work just as much as the left side. You never want to see your kid favoring his stronger side, this will cause muscle imbalances and lead to injury.
- Exercise to help it out: Pushups.To help teach this, here is what you can do: Have them lie flat on the stomach with their arms out and feet together, tell them to bring their hands in so that they are nice and snug to their chest, right by their pec muscles, next tell them to point their elbows back, and then push up keeping their torso straight as a board.
- When it is used in sports: Fighting to pull down a rebound in basketball, grabbing an opponent’s leg in wrestling, tackling in football.
- What you should look for: Again, you should look for muscle symmetry. Also, look for a nice flat back with an upright posture anytime they pull.
- Exercises to help it out: Chin ups, TRX Row
- For chin ups, have them start from the bottom, pull themselves up with a pause at the top, and have them take three to four seconds to come back down.
- For TRX Row, let them gauge how close or far away their feet should be, then have them point their toes to the sky, and pull in with an upright posture and flat back. Have them take three to four seconds to come back down.
*Note: Always make it even when it comes to pushes and pulls. Do just as many pulls as you do pushes. This will train the front and back of the shoulder joint evenly which will help protect the joint. P.S. the shoulder joint is the weakest one in the body.
- When it is used in sports: Playing defense in basketball, running, cutting, making a steal in baseball, taking a shot in wrestling, etc. Lunging is used constantly in sports.
- What you should look for: You should see the knee stay on in line with the foot. Also, have them keep an upright posture.
- What you can do: Lunge Matrix- Forward lunge, side lunge, and rotational lunge. Note: Use just their body weight and focus on the direction they point their knees
- When it is used in sports: Dodging a tackle in football, run the bases, move their feet in wrestling, doing a floor routine in gymnastics or cheerleading, basically any time that your kids have to change their direction, they use agility.
- What you should look for: Look for them to be in control as they begin to change their direction, you never want them to leave their athletic position which is knees bent with shoulders over the knees and head up.
- What you can do: Ladder Drills- Pick four or five ladder drills and have them run through the ladder keeping an athletic position and avoid hitting the rungs. Make a game out of it, and let them have fun.
Most of the time, kids could care less about lessening their chance of injuries so they might not always be motivated to do these exercises. Tell them that this is what the pros do. Find out who their favorite athlete is and tell them that this is what they use to get better.