Preseason Strength and Conditioning for Youth Athletes
One common question we hear from many parents in the offseason, is "what should I be doing to get my kid stronger and in better shape for football?". There are many things kids can do for strength and conditioning - and varying opinions as well. The bottom line is that you don't want to throw your child into a gym or a weight lifting regimen without proper instruction and technique. We can't expect our kids to know their balance and bodies the way we may; these are skills and techniques that require repetition and moderation.
Keep it Simple
Bodyweight movements are an essential starting point for building strength. If your youth athlete can't do a proper push-up with his or her own body weight, do you really think they can bench press a bar with weight? In order for youth athletes to gain strength and conditioning, think about these movements.
- Air Squats - build balance, core, and leg strength. Check out this video from USA Football for proper squat technique.
- Jump Rope - builds endurance, balance, coordination, and strength. USA Football shared this video.
- Push ups - this simple, but effect movement, builds strength in arms, back and shoulders. Livestrong has a great tutorial on teaching kids a proper push up.
- Broad Jumps - this explosive movement develops power and it will help your player learn the "shoot" transition of heads up tackling. Check out this video from USA Football for proper form.
- Running - ah yes...running. Not only will your youth athlete experience a lot of running throughout the first month of practices, but running is essential to the game. I find the best way to develop conditioning and speed is interval running. Interval running will help develop speed and endurance. Start by taking your child for a 1-mile run and alternate 20-seconds of sprinting with 20-seconds of light jogging. As your child's endurance increases you can in turn increase the length of the run.
Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. Be sure to keep an eye on your child's food consumption. Instead of them grabbing the cookies or chips, work on providing them more fresh fruits and healthy snacks. Of course kids are kids and are deserving of some sugary treats - just work on a balance of a healthy diet.
When starting any fitness routine, it can be tough. So it's important to show progress. You can measure by simply keeping track of number of repetitions for a given movement, or length of a run. As they get stronger and improve conditioning you will see better coordination, an increased volume of push ups and air squats, longer broad jumps, and increased running distance.
If you and your child are serious about feeling better and being ready for the season, you can't do one workout and expect results. This is an investment in time and sweat equity. Put together a 3-4 day per week plan and stick to it leading up to the season. There's no better time than now to start!