Building The Right Strength Foundation
(from Coach Jimmy Lamour with Lamour Training Systems)
Many young athletes envision being as strong as a famous athlete or body builders, yet they fail to realize the strength they need now is different from the strength they need for later. What is the purpose of the strength? Most youth athletes need strength to move the body’s weight in a specific direction. This is why it makes sense to master bodyweight exercises first before adding any resistance to the movement. Learning how to properly deliver signals from the brain to the muscle will improve strength at a rapid rate and help you avoid injuries. Learn the movement right the first time and you will not have to worry about injuries later. A fitness professional who knows how to coach youth movement to increase strength becomes critical. And remember that the length of an athlete’s limbs or structure also affects how strength is perceived. A taller athlete has to do more work because of the distance that is traveled to do the same amount of work. For instance, it takes more work for a taller athlete to perform a bodyweight squat than a short athlete because they need to bend down farther to reach the same position. In the dictionary, strong is defined as “having or marked by great physical power.” The plan that has been most effective in increasing the strength of our youth athletes is to master bodyweight exercises, gradually increase resistance, and document the gains of each athlete.
We know that ultimately youth athletes want to get faster, so they have to strengthen the posterior chain or leg, lower back, and abdominal muscles. Youth athletes should not be spending two hours in the weight room because we are after activating the more powerful muscle fibers. Those fibers do not have energy reserves that last a long time, so most workouts should last about 35 minutes. The total body workout will allow the athlete to spend minimal time strength training, while still working the right muscles to make significant gains. The body works as one unit, so there is no need to try to isolate muscles trying to work biceps, abs, etc. Let’s face it: Most young athletes don’t have the patience and don’t look forward to long boring workouts. Remember, the workouts do not have to be tiring to be effective. You can do jumping jacks for an hour and get tired, but you won’t get any stronger. It is not uncommon for youth athletes to feel like they are not tired during one of our workouts. We are more interested in the body adapting to the progressive stress and growing stronger over time.
Time is another factor that a lot of parents do not take into consideration. It takes time to properly learn the specifics of these strength movements and then use that strength to an acceptable level. That is why we favor the long-term approach. We would much rather start with a youth athlete in elementary school and continue with the process into college. Any coach doing any strength exercises in any order will make an untrained athlete stronger. The difference in a good fitness coach is they will continue to help the athlete avoid plateaus in gains and keep the athlete healthy. Be mindful that we are building athletes and not body builders.
The strength exercises should also be adjusted depending on where you are in the season. We must decrease the amount of strength exercises performed during the season to account for the increase in practice time. We do not recommend that you completely remove the strength exercises out of the in-season program because you want to provide enough of a stimulus to keep your strength gains.
It amazes us how some coaches and parents are anti-strength training, but allow kids to participate in youth sports. Any coach who knows about the body understands that sports give more opportunities for stress on the joints as compared to strength training. In fact, strength training would make the joints more mobile, strengthen bones, and teach the body to absorb stress. The problem is most coaches or parents just need a system that shows them what to do at any level of preparedness. And that is why we have created this manual.
The age where kids can start adding resistance into their strength training program will be highly individual. Kids mature and master bodyweight exercises at different times. We absolutely try to add resistance later in the youth athlete’s development because we feel that as long as we are making gains with the bodyweight exercises, there is not a need to change. The only exceptions we make are when you have a kid who is larger, who cannot perform a pull-up even with band assistance. In that case, we might do some light dumbbell rows or inverted rows to strengthen the back until the athlete can handle the stress.
A warm-up for strength exercises is different from a warm-up for sprinting. The difference is that you must activate the muscles that will be used in the exercises and increase the body temperature to lubricate the joints. A good mind-muscle connection sends signals to the muscles quickly and efficiently. You can use some of the plyometric drills to awaken your nervous system if you want to use it at this time. The warm-up must include the whole body. The muscles that usually lack activation in our experience are the gluts, upper back muscles, and abdominal muscles. We do not like to make the warm-up long because the workout doesn’t take long if you use the right exercises. On average, the warm-up will take about 10 minutes.
The strength exercises are categorical with a template of what must be included in each workout. At this age, we recommend you follow the same order of exercises for at least 6 weeks before you change exercises, although you must strive to break records of what you did the week before. For instance, if you did 5 reps one week, try to do 7 the next week. You can also progress by doing more sets of that exercise. We also arrange the exercises according to their level of difficulty. An important note to remember: Make sure that you do not strength train on back-to-back days. Growth happens during recovery, not training.
Flexibility is to be performed after every workout if the athlete isn’t sprinting right away. Studies have shown that static stretching is beneficial after the workout to lengthen certain muscles.
Jimmy Lamour is a former Guilford College in Greensboro, NC All South Defensive Back. He set the record for interception return yards at the school. Upon Graduation, he tested numerous philosophies on strength and speed through seminars, self-study, conversation with renowned strength coaches, and training of hundreds of athletes. This led him to develop the 4.30 40 Speed System a system that helped him improve his 40 yard dash from a 4.66 to a 4.30, which gave way to many professional football workouts. He later developed Lamour Training Systems with the help of his lovely wife Charlene to help athletes improve their performance and receive knowledge he missed out on as a child. He continues to consult with several division 1, prep schools, and high school coaches. LTS has helped many football athletes play at the D1, D2, and D3 levels. He believes that his passion to see young men become all God intended them to be and provide knowledge of the defensive back position which will allow young athletes under the tutelage of Pick 6 Academy to flourish. He is currently certified as a Youth Fitness specialist, 7on7 Performance Director, and High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist.He is also a PowerPlus Mouthguard Ambassador. Also, Coach Lamour is a devout Christian. He has two children Camdon (19) and Micah (12).Sign up for his newsletter to receive his free speed report at http://fastyouthathlete.blogspot.com/ on For more information, call 336-257-9151