As seasons change my brain has always used this transitional period to evaluate what is working and what could be improved in our facility. In the land of training youth athletes, constant evaluation is a necessity. Here’s what I’m thinking about right now…
1) Autonomy is subjective and athlete’s don’t always NEED it.
Unless you are the coach or captain of/on a team, you are typically ‘following’ a model or course of action that your organization implements. I’m not saying this is bad, but what I want to bring to light is that athletes are brought up being ‘told’what time practice is, what time to be on the field, what color their jersey is going to be, and what time they need to be in the weight room. When you’re IN the weight room, giving too much autonomy to athletes can actually be a cog in the wheel.
We are the strength and conditioning provider for a few Division 2 teams at a local college. One team has trained with me for over 3 years. By this point, the upperclassmen have a pretty solid idea of what’s going on and how to execute the movement. This past spring during their in-season block I had programmed the athletes to do 40 reps of their favorite variation. My mindset was to just get a little volume with a horizontal pull and the difference between a TRX, incline row, or 3 point row was marginal during a 6am lift in the middle of the winter. Get the athlete’s doing something they like, right? What actually happened was everyone would just do whatever the captain chose…
Because sometimes autonomy is subjective and isn’t always critical in every setting. In this case, Relatedness and Community > Autonomy. And that’s okay.
2) Pelvic control needs to be trained, in multiple planes of movement, in every session.
This may not seem like a no brainer. However, I would challenge you to think about the positions that you put athletes' in during their sessions. Are they always prone/supine? How long are the moment arms above and below the hips (trunk and legs)? Is your program entirely frontal plane? Are you always using a fixed, static, load?
The list can continue, but what I’ve been digging in with is getting athletes to flex, extend, anti-flex and anti-extend, and control rotation to their right and left in each session. Between the warm up, power/strength/accessory work, and in the cool-down, I can get it all in.
What I’ve found? a TON of opportunities to create context for more advanced movements and body positions. I’ve also found that the environment of the exercise does a lot of the teaching.
3) Isometrics are very underutilized as a mode of increasing intensity AND as a primary programming strategy for youth athletes.
I’ve written about isometrics in the past and I am still going to beat this drum. Again, 90% of the people I train are young kids, under the age of 18. Relative body strength isn’t typically sufficient, motor control is all over the place, and their recovery strategies are questionable (unless Fortnite becomes a recovery strategy?). My point? Take the thinking out of the exercise, control one aspect of the force/velocity curve and work on the FORCE aspect by way of teaching great positions.
Other added benefits…in-season athlete's that need to minimize contract points with the ground (decrease total stress), rehabilitation settings (minimizing pain responses through concentric/eccentric forces), added exposure (isometrics are programmed for time), ability to program higher loads (less total range of motion), ability to load various positions of the total movement, and my FAVORITE, as a method of teaching total body ‘tension’ (something athlete’s can struggle to learn).
Should your whole program be isometrics? YES…kidding…but don’t be afraid to pair isometrics with something that has a high neural fatigue. Positional isometrics also work really well priming athletes for the upcoming movements and their positional demands.
They’ve been something I’ve been dabbling with more and more and each training phase that goes by I have grown to adore them.