strength and conditioning

Strength and Conditioning – why these are the most important tools for young athletes


Dr. Carol Frey

Expert on strength and conditioning


Strength and Conditioning programs for young athletes are means to prevent or reduce injuries. Published studies show that teams with good strength and conditioning programs have lower injury rates. I write about this in my book “Don’t Worry: My Mom is the Team Doctor”.

The first goal of strength and conditioning is certainly to reduce or prevent injuries. The second goal is to increase sports performance. It should never be the other way around.

Stronger neck muscles through strength training, for example, will decrease the acceleration and deceleration forces of the head and brain and may help prevent a concussion. Sports performance with conditioning can be improved with an increase in vertical jump, explosive power, and strength of muscles around the knee, shoulder, and spine – with some injury prevention built in.

A strength and conditioning program will improve the motor skills involved in the major movements of a sport. Young athletes need to learn the skills for their sport and also how to warm up, stretch, strength train, and develop power, agility, toughness, and explosiveness.

Strength training with weights and conditioning that includes stretching are key to proper development of the young athlete.

Strength/Resistance Training

Muscles get stronger and bigger if they are used. Put muscles under a little stress, and they will grow even more. That’s simply the point of strength training with weights. Lifting (or resisting) weights puts muscles under stress to cause them to grow.

Strength and resistance training can be used to enhance athletic and sports performance. It can also be used to prevent injury and for rehabilitation after an injury.

Types of Strength and Resistance Exercises

– Body weight resistance such as push-ups and pull-ups
– Free weights such as dumbbells and bars
– Weight machines in which you can adjust the weight
– Resistance bands
– Medicine balls
– Machines such as the Pilates reformer that require user to resist body weight with bands and pulleys (careful though!)

The majority of kids will have a good time playing sports, especially when they prepare for the activity. Kids should acquire skills, train their bodies, and learn to protect themselves so the are less at risk for injury. This is important for every sport, nut just contact sports such as football and wrestling or highly technical sports such as gymnastics.

Young athletes need to learn the skills for their sort and also how to warm up and stretch. Strength and conditioning will develop power, agility, toughness and explosiveness. Weight lifting, conditioning, and stretching are keys to proper development of the young athlete.

Unlike strength training and weight lifting, conditioning is all about body movements that increase athletic skills and physical fitness and decrease the chance of injury. The types of conditioning exercises may be different depending on the fitness goals.

To improve athletic performance, the athlete uses targeted, specific movement to mimic the moves used on the court or on the field. A basketball player can practice shooting baskets repeatedly to help with sports conditioning. However, aerobic conditioning increases cardiovascular endurance and lung capacity. Usually the aerobic conditioning includes low-intensity, long-duration exercises such as running or cycling. The heart rate should be increased and sustained for a time period that challenges the heart and lungs so they get stronger.

There is also anaerobic conditioning for sports that require intense, sudden bursts of speed and strength. Weight training and sprinting are anaerobic exercises. One of the main goals of a strength and conditioning program is to increase the amount of stress that the body can handle before it gets injured. Therefore, strength and conditioning programs play a very important role ein preventing injury.

Interesting story in Wall Street Journal on strength trainers in college:



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