I came across a few articles in the most recent Strength & Conditioning Journal regarding youth agility training & the factors that go into gaining and improving these abilities. It led me to an article from June 2012 that I found interesting and also encouraging in terms of the direction we’re heading regarding youth/adolescent training. Previously, most training recommendations were made based purely on age, with little attempt to quantify the true physical maturation of a child or adolescent. The old model clearly had many flaws, but this new YPD (Youth physical development) model takes a lot more factors into consideration, and is based largely on when a child reaches peak height velocity and peak weight velocity, along with puberty.
I don’t want to summarize the whole article, but I do have it downloaded in pdf for anyone that wants it [just shoot me a comment or an email]. I really just wanted to share these two graphics that help explain what areas a child’s “training” should be focused on in order to develop to their full athletic potential.
A similar chart for females:
The thing most noteworthy for trainers:
-FMS (functional movement screens / mobility) are important, but never the primary focus of a training program. Even in the early stages of development, where training has low structure, the child is learning to develop agility, speed, power and strength simultaneously – and all components are important.
-This spectrum helps trainers decide what category a late developing or early developing child would be in & what components might be more important to emphasize (vs just relying on physical age & “training age”)
-Agility is an under researched component, but may need to be trained & then re-trained after peak height velocity is reached. Agility requires a large neural component (decision making, reaction time) that develops with a child’s maturity. The patterns can be established and trained early, with repeatability helping to form those neural connections, but it may need to be re-visited later if there is a significant growth spurt or change in physical development.
-High intensity metabolic training/endurance training is very low on the priority list until later years/higher structure training. With all the bootcamp trends popping up lately, it is important to remember that children are not “mini adults” and therefore shouldn’t be trained in the same fashion. We have come to terms with the fact that strength training (when done properly) is not going to damage limbs or stunt growth, but it is important to focus on the needs of the development child/athlete and not give them a workout targeted at people looking to lose weight.
-There is predictably a shift in maturity & age when it comes to females vs. males, but the training necessities when they DO reach PHV remain the same.
I like that this model seems to have more of an individualized approach when it comes to assessing a child’s readiness for training and I hope it becomes studied more, tweaked, and eventually widely accepted as a new standard for training.