I was listening to a really great podcast the other day about strength. What it means to be strong. What you should do to get strong. The different types of strength. And what relative strength is.
There are a good amount of people who only equate strength with being “weight room” strong, when the reality is that strength has more aspects to it than that.
Hence the term relative strength.
There are also those people who believe, parents and coaches in particular, that kids should not strength train because they are not biologically ready for strength training and it could stunt growth or cause injury.
A few things on both of these issues:
1.) There is more than one type of strength. To put it simply, there is weight room strong, and there is being strong for your sport. Both are interdependent to an extent.
If you are weight room strong but not able to carry that strength over to your sport, then you need to work on fundamental strength.
Fundamental strength involves body control, motor coordination, and a solid plyometric foundation.
Because being able to push weight is a bit easier to quantify in terms of specific measurement, too often do athletes and coaches chase ONLY numbers in the weight room.
While bench pressing and Olympic lifts are certainly important in improving strength, just because you produce high numbers does not mean you are the best athlete on the field or court.
However, I am NOT discrediting this strength component by any means, but…
If you can not maneuver around efficiently using your own bodyweight, then the transfer between the weight room and field will be more difficult to execute, and increase your chances for injury.
2.) That same fundamental strength is a significant factor for performance for any young athlete who participates in sports.
A solid training program that builds fundamental strength for youth athletes is important for their sport and in helping prevent injury.
To say strength training will increase chances for a kid to get hurt, but consume him with sport practice every day is contradictory.
You don’t get stronger or faster playing or practicing it. You just get better at that sport.
And to meet the demands of that sport, you should be fundamentally strong and train the muscles to fire efficiently FOR that sport.
The problem comes when coaches and parents equate strength directly to training with weights, when the truth of the matter is a solid body weight and plyometric program when executed correctly is key.
Building fundamental, or basic strength is not always the most exciting process, but is absolutely necessary in preparing the body FOR sport.
3.) There should be a solid base of fundamental strength, and movement efficiency before doing in heavy strength or overspeed training.
Often parents will say that “my kid needs to get faster and better footwork” by some set amount of time, and often will expect right away for the kid to be going through some type of insane sled pushing, or ladder drill as if that is the immediate solution and see half a second off of their forty time.
While there is definitely a time for this when the athlete is ready, if the child can not even lift her leg and have stability at the hip joint which is crucial in any speed movement, then training starts there.
What you end up seeing is coaches and trainers throwing kids through these motions who aren’t ready (mainly because lack of assessment), strapping them up to whatever machine, burning them out, and saying this is “speed training”.
I will also get the “My kid needs to get stronger. His bench press is only 90 pounds”
In my head I’m thinking, do you want your kid to become a better athlete, or get better at the bench pressing?
This goes back to separating weight room strength with transferable strength.
Not every drill to build fundamental or even sport specific strength will “look” that appealing, but it does have a specific role.
Developing basic strength, then weight room strength, and doing specific drilling to properly execute that new found strength is the trick.
Once again, if the athletes is struggling to remain stable during a basic push up exercise, then they are not quite ready to overload on weights just yet.
A good amount of time should be devoted to each component of strength training, and put together to meet the demands of sport. Too much time in one phase can create and imbalance that is sure to get exposed during competition at some point.