The journey towards developing athleticism begins in adolescence, a critical period of growth and development.
Long-term athletic development (LTAD) focuses on creating a structured and sustainable training approach that nurtures physical, mental, and emotional growth.
In this blog, we will delve into the significance of LTAD and explore effective strength and speed training strategies for teenagers, ensuring a balanced and effective athletic journey.
Understanding Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD)
Long-term athletic development is a comprehensive approach that seeks to optimize a person’s athletic potential over their entire life span. It recognises that early specialisation and intensive training can lead to burnout, injuries, and missed developmental opportunities. Instead, LTAD advocates for a multi-faceted approach that aligns with the individual’s stage of development.
LTAD focuses on the needs of participants and their individual stages of development. It also provides a point of reference for coaches, administrators, parents and sport scientists. The model recognises both participation and performance-orientated pathways in sport and physical activity.
During adolescence, the Learn to Train and Train to Train stages are crucial. These phases focus on building a broad base of athletic skills, improving fundamental movement patterns, and introducing strength and speed training in a progressive and age-appropriate manner.
One of the most popular models for LTAD has 7 key areas:
1) Active Start
Until age 6, it is all about play and mastering basic movement skills! Children should be able to have fun with physical activity through both structured and unstructured free play that incorporates a variety of body movements. An early active start enhances the development of brain function, coordination, social skills, gross motor skills, emotions, and imagination. It also helps children build confidence, develop posture and balance, build strong bones and muscles, achieve a healthy weight, reduce stress, sleep well, move skillfully, and enjoy being active.
FUNdamentals. From ages 6 to 9 in boys and 6 to 8 in girls, children should participate in a variety of well-structured activities that develop fundamental movement skills and overall motor skills including agility, balance, and coordination. However, activities and programs must maintain a focus on fun, and formal competition should be only minimally introduced.
3) Learn to Train
From ages 8 to 11 in girls and 9 to 12 in boys, or until the onset of the growth spurt, children are ready to begin developing foundational sport skills. The emphasis should be on acquiring a wide range of skills necessary for a number of sporting activities. Overdeveloping “talent” at this age through excessive single-sport training and competition (as well as early positioning in team sports) can have a negative effect on later stages of development. Early specialization promotes one-sided physical, technical, and tactical development and increases the likelihood of injury and burnout. At this stage is is important to stay broad and acquire diverse movement skills.
4) Train to Train
The ages that define this stage for boys and girls are based on the onset and duration of the growth spurt, which is generally from ages 11 to 15 for girls and 12 to 16 for boys. This is the stage at which people are physiologically responsive to stimuli and training; in other words, the time to start “building the engine”. Teenagers should establish an aerobic base, develop speed and strength toward the end of the stage, and further consolidate their basic sport-specific skills and tactics. At this stage, exercise choices become a bit broader including more barbell and dumbbell exercises and more complex movement patterns.
5) Train to Compete
This stage is about optimizing the engine and teaching participants how to compete. They can either choose to specialize in one sport and pursue a competitive stream, or continue participating at a recreational level and thereby enter the Active for Life stage. If the participant is playing sports competitively, high-volume and high-intensity training begins to occur year-round.
6) Train to Win
This is a highly specialised stage where athletes with identified talent pursue the most intense training suitable for performance in their sport. The training methods, equipment used are tailored to meet their individual demands and the demands of the sport more specifically.
7) Active for Life
The most important element of long term athletic development and what we are all about at SportsPlus Physiotherapy. Young athletes can enter this stage at essentially any age following the acquisition of physical literacy. If teenagers have been correctly introduced to activity and sport throughout the Active Start, FUNdamentals, and Learn to Train stages, they will have the necessary motor skills and confidence to remain active for life in virtually any sport they choose. For competitive athletes, this stage represents the transition from a competitive career to lifelong physical activity in the same sport or other sports/activities.
Benefits of Strength Training for Teenagers
Strength training is important for teenagers for healthy growth and to set good habits for life. For teenagers, being active every day has many social, emotional, intellectual and health benefits, including:
- a chance to have fun with friends and family
- reduced antisocial behaviour
- stronger cooperation and teamwork skills
- better self-esteem and confidence
- lower anxiety and stress
- better concentration
- healthy growth and development
- strong muscles and bones
- improved fitness, including coordination and movement skills
- lower risk of disease
- lower risk of unhealthy weight gain.
Health experts recommend children and teenagers include muscle and bone strengthening activities like running and strength exercises 3 days per week!
Keys for Strength Training for Teenagers
Focus on Technique: Proper technique is the foundation of effective strength training. Adolescents should first learn bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks before progressing to loaded movements. Proper form prevents injuries and lays the groundwork for more advanced training.
Bodyweight Exercises: Bodyweight exercises help develop functional strength while respecting the adolescent’s developing musculoskeletal system. Emphasise proper movement patterns and control before adding external weights.
Progressive Overload: Gradually increasing the resistance or intensity of exercises is key to building strength. Begin with light weights or resistance bands and incrementally increase the load as strength improves.
Balanced Muscle Development: Ensure a balanced approach by targeting all major muscle groups. Overemphasising certain muscles can lead to imbalances and potential injuries.
Supervision and Guidance: Adolescents should be supervised by qualified health professionals who can monitor their progress and adjust the training regimen as needed.
Keys for Speed Training for Adolescents
Warm-up and Mobility: Proper warm-up and mobility exercises are crucial to prevent injuries during speed training. Focus on dynamic stretches and mobility drills that prepare the body for high-intensity activities.
Running Mechanics: Teach adolescents proper running mechanics, including posture, arm movement, and stride length. Proper technique maximises speed and reduces the risk of injury.
Sprint Intervals: Incorporate short sprint intervals to develop explosive speed. These intervals can be tailored to the individual’s fitness level, gradually increasing in intensity and duration.
Agility Training: Agility drills improve coordination, quick direction changes, and lateral movements. These skills are essential for various sports and contribute to overall athleticism.
Recovery: Adequate recovery is essential for optimal performance and injury prevention. Adolescents should prioritise sleep, nutrition, and rest days in their training routine.
Long-term athletic development for teenagers is a holistic approach that considers their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Prioritising proper technique, gradual progression, and individualised training plans is crucial for fostering a lifelong love for sports and physical activity.
By incorporating balanced strength and speed training strategies, coaches and parents can support adolescents in their journey to becoming well-rounded and successful athletes. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just short-term performance, but the development of lifelong skills and a healthy relationship with physical activity.