5 Steps to Injury Reduction for Young Athletes
At Storm over the last 8 years we have grown a reputation for developing young athletes.
Some of our athletes go on to earn international honours or progress to senior level sport; but in almost all cases our young athletes learn how to train for optimal performance, eat to build health and performance and perhaps most importantly learn the benefit of working AND smart.
We have a strong focus on reducing the risk of injury our young athletes face from their sport, and here are the areas we focus on to make sure we produce healthy, strong and robust athletes.
1. Activation in Warm Ups
Some muscles just have a tendency to go to sleep when you don’t use them. For example your glutes (the muscles in your bum) which are key in protecting the health of the knee joint or the scapular retractors (muscle in your upper back) which are important for shoulder health.
Our warm ups focus on activating these “sleeping” muscles, to get them switched on and ready to do their job in protecting joints effectively.
2. Stability and Neuro-muscular Control
Before you start developing speed and power you need to build the ability to control that speed and power.
It’s all very well being fast but if you can’t stop it’s not all that helpful for sport 😉
It’s pretty typical when we first start working with a young athlete for them to lack the ability to control their limbs accurately and also for the athlete to lack the stability needed in their sport. For example athletes should be able to land jumps on a single leg with stability and control.
We have another 5 step system to build this level of functional strength in our young athletes, it usually takes between 4-8 weeks to progress teenagers to a level where they can safely absorb rotational force on one leg.
3. Develop Strength
At first we start by building the athlete’s capacity to control their bodyweight accurately.
When the athlete we’re working with has developed the control required we then introduce resistance training.
A well rounded resistance program should include:
- Knee dominant exercises
- Hip dominant exercises
- Horizontal pulling exercises
- Horizontal pushing exercises
- Vertical pulling exercises
- Vertical pushing exercises
- Bracing exercises (where the athlete holds stability in their core muscles)
There are literally hundreds of variations of each type of exercise, we start with the basics and focus on learning good technique and engraining good movement patterns.
We then move on to develop single leg and single arm strength both to iron out any imbalances and also because sport uses single limb strength more often than double.
N.B. one point worth mentioning is, we make our programs challenging and engaging at every level. It’s all very well having the most logical and safe progressions but young athletes are competitive and want to train hard. Our job is to keep one hand on the reigns but find a safe way of challenging our athletes.
4. Teach Sprint Technique and Change of Direction
To a lot of coaches this is “namby pamby stuff” and athletes “just need to lift heavy”.
They are wrong.
I can tell you with absolute confidence this is the secret sauce for athletes and the difference between athletes that stand out and those that fail to make the jump from ok to performing at their best.
It’s the difference between beating that defender and getting tackled in rugby, the difference between making it from the baseline to reach that drop shot in tennis and the difference between losing the defender in football to get free in the box.
Learning movement efficiency also helps our athletes waste less energy than their competition which improves performance later in the game.
The potential for improved performance here is huge and it’s surprising how many are still in the dark to how much better you can become.
5. Movement Conditioning
When you have developed good movement technique it’s natural to think that the “movement” box has been ticked.
It’s common in a lot of programs to go through movements specific to the sport only at the start of sessions when the athlete has little fatigue is fresh and for all fitness and conditioning to take place on a bike or rower.
It’s no good having good technique when fresh but for that technique to go out the window under fatigue, after all it’s when we are fatigued that we are at most risk of injury.
It’s for this reason we do multi directional fitness. We also cue our athletes to maintain good technique under fatigue; which is hard, and this improves mental toughness.
So there you have it; 8 years of research and development that you can have on the house!
Athletes that are globally strong and powerful, fast and move well (even under fatigue) are a nightmare to compete against. Better to be one of them!
If you’d like to work with a Storm Young Athlete Coach this year please drop us a line (online form further down), we have capacity for another 8 athletes this year at the time of writing this.
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