This Should Be Your Young Athlete’s Second Sport

Strength and Conditioning For Young Athletes

During the course of my career, I have observed how much strength and conditioning and “sports specific training” has grown. When I first started out as a strength coach and personal trainer in 2001, young athletes were very limited when it came to receiving proper coaching on how to lift weights, jump, run, and get in shape to prevent injuries. Fast-forward 16 years, and it has become common knowledge to both young athletes and their parents that improving fitness in the weight room is essential for overall improvement.

Unfortunately, even though we are more educated about the importance, I still see people neglecting this very important component of the overall athletics experience. Sure, I may be biased, but I have some important reasons on why we need to make strength and conditioning young athletes second sport.

1. Sports Specialization and Injuries

Sports at every level, even at the adolescent levels, have become increasingly competitive. So much so, that a lot of kids are opting to play only one sport instead of multiple sports. This may not be so good when it comes to injury prevention.

Studies and data found by Loyola University Health System have shown that kids who specialize too much and too early have a much higher risk of injury, even multiple times. This applied to kids engaging in more than 11 hours in one sport and more than 20 hours a week in three sports combined.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that kids as young as 8 years of age need to move in a variety of ways. Engaging in multiple sports, at a reasonable volume, is the best way to reduce the risk of injury. Simply just “playing” outside is also something we need to do in order to have a well-rounded fitness base and reduce the risk of injury.

Now, I’m also a realist. I know that sports specialization is going to happen. The competition is too intense. So, the next best thing for kids who specialize too early, or compete too much in general, is a sound strength and conditioning program. In fact, it’s the best way to reduce the risk of injury, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Here is a staggering statistic:  Females between the ages of 11-19 make up over 80% of the ACL tears (anterior cruciate ligament tear in the knee) each year in the USA. There are 4 things that contribute to this. Bone structure, female hormones, lack of strength, and overtraining (performing the same movements over and over again, eg. Only playing one sport excessively).

We can only control the overtraining portion and get stronger. So we need to prioritize this. Increasing your strength and rounding out your fitness program is the best defense against injury.

2. Improved Performance

There is a reason that we see college professional athletes on TV working out all the time. As they become older and more aware of their bodies, they realize they need to improve their overall fitness level and not just performance in their chosen sport. The repetitiveness of primarily playing the same sport has not only left them with bumps and bruises, but also worn their body down. This can dramatically decrease strength, conditioning, and power output. Three huge attributes an athlete must possess.

Strength and power training will help prepare your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints and nervous system, to continue to compete at the level you strive for. In order for your body’s engine to continue to stay in high gear, you need to fine-tune it.

Below are my favorite exercises that I feel ALL young athletes need to learn in order to increase their overall strength and power output.

– Power Clean
– Trap Bar Deadlift
– Pull-ups and Chin-ups
– Bench Press
– Farmers Walk
– Turkish Get-up
– Broad Jump
– Medicine Ball Throws
– Sprinting

A Life Long Sport

The reality is that one day, our youth will grow up. They will become busier with life, and not be able to play an organized sport. What once helped keep them in shape will no longer be a daily habit for them. Understanding how to workout on your own, for the rest of your life, will provide you with more lifelong tools. Now don’t get me wrong. I owe a lot to athletics. It taught me a tremendous amount of teamwork, hard work, commitment and much more. What it did not do was show me what I could do with life after sports.

Combining a strength and conditioning program year-round with your chosen sport(s), gives you the ultimate 1-2 punch for lifelong fitness and discipline. Choosing to engage in a strength and conditioning workout twice a week, year-round, will provide you with the necessary fitness base to carry with you for the rest of your life.


Check out our Sports Performance Academy to learn more about strength training for young athletes! Click on the picture below to go to the site.

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