3 Youth Strength and Conditioning Traditions That Must Die

3 Youth Strength and Conditioning Traditions That Must Die

“Pokemon Go ends its reign at No. 1.” – Wall Street Journal, as of yesterday.

What the what? You mean the #1 waste of time phone app no longer holds the top spot?

With anything that becomes an overnight fad, there comes a time when it just simply withers away. Remember the shake weight? Richard Simmons? Shaking Fat Melters?

Yeah. Perhaps these died because people demanded more, got smarter, or increased their ability to comb through bullshit.

And now that we’re in the age of distraction, a fad can last for a split second. Then, it’s onto the next. Not to play the part of the shrink, but we all have to accept we possess some degree of ADD. I’ll give you a hug…it’ll be okay.

Alas, maybe Pokemon Go would’ve stayed at No. 1 if consumers were given more incentive to conquer a Pokemon gym. Because once you win, what do you get? A pat on the back? An ego boost? A magical orgasm?

I don’t know, maybe a million dollar cash prize, or a unicorn that shits glitter delivered to your door would’ve been better. Fuck, I want my damn unicorn.

Moving on…

None of this is to say Pokemon Go has died. It hasn’t. But the creators must innovate in order to align with consumers’ changing attitudes. In order to reclaim No. 1, they must innovate their asses off.

In the strength and conditioning realm, the same goes. Things like program design, exercise progressions, movements, and drills must be tweaked as more research and experience-based knowledge blasts out into the world.

The more athletes and coaches become knowledgable about what works and what doesn’t, the more they will cut a fad quicker than a barber.

Some S&C traditions have lingered longer than others, especially in youth athletics.

Almost weekly, I see strength coaches putting their athletes through shenanigans that are 1.) detrimental to performance 2.) increase chance of injury and 3.) present a lack of creativity and growth.

As wonderful as it is to do what we’ve always known and be fucking comfortable, newsflash: athletes are becoming smarter, more needy, and much more capable of discerning the boys from the men. Or in my case, the girls from the women.

Needless to say, it’s time to get on the cutting edge of training and provide kids with cool, innovative shit. Their attention spans are shortening too rapidly for us to get complacent as coaches.

So for those of you who are still stuck in the Stone Age, here are 3 Youth Strength and Conditioning Traditions That Must Die:

1.) Ladders to improve agility.
Any Joe Blow can toss a ladder on a field, demonstrate the icky shuffle, and yell at a kid to pick their feet up and to “pretend the ground his hot!” That’s why recently, there’s been an influx of self-proclaimed “speed” and “agility” coaches.

In fact, your grandpa could become an agility coach tomorrow for $100 an hour. Laugh it up, but this isn’t a joke…it’s reality. Parents fork out this much money to hire unqualified coaches and put their kids in an old bald man’s hands. Sorry if that sounded creepy.

Okay, back to ladders. Shuffling your feet over yellow clips and landing in boxes isn’t going to get your kid explosive, nor will they be able to decelerate and accelerate properly in all planes of motion. The reality is: your kid will just be good at doing ladders. And last I looked, that’s not a competitive sport.

In order to be agile, your kid needs strength (efficient use of force), power (optimal fast twitch muscle firing and rate coding), and the ability to think quickly (reaction).

For the nerds out there, I wrote an extensive post called 5 Ways To Improve Your Agility. It’s long, but there are pretty graphs, math equations, and pictures of Alex Morgan’s booty to mitigate your ADD. You’re welcome.

2.) Longest plank competitions.
The other day, I saw a video on a strength coach’s Instagram of a 13 year old girls’ soccer team having a “longest plank competition.” The last girl remaining had so much lordosis she could’ve given Jen Selter a run for her money.


This shouldn’t be surprising, however, since the strength coach shouts in the video, “Good job!!! You’re at 15 minutes!!!! Keep it up!!!!”

Am I in the fucking twilight zone? Or is this kid getting cheered on for throwing her back out and feeding her lordosis? I never use this acronym, but…SMH.

Let’s get real: a 15 minute plank is not going to make a kid’s core as strong as Iron Man, nor is it going to help to improve posture, reflexive stability, and motor control – all critical things for kids to develop early.

Instead, what about dead bugs? RKC planks? According to strength coach Tony Gentilcore, if you’re performing a plank CORRECTLY, you won’t be able to hold it for more than 20 seconds.

^ I challenge you to try that and not make your face fall off.

Or how about bird dogs – a staple movement for honing motor learning and challenging the reflexive core? Actually, I had a kid say to me yesterday, “Coach Erica, these are WAY harder than planks.” Yeah. I sometimes read books. ;-0

A drill like this not only takes less than 30 seconds, it also provides a massive bang-for-your-training buck with the beautiful interplay of anti-rotation and contralateral coordination.

3.) Bear crawls.
Bear with me on this one. See what I did there?

Before you send the hate mail, hear me out. I don’t totally loathe bear crawls. I just think coaches have done a piss-poor job of teaching them properly. Worse yet, utilizing them in the wrong way. Punishment and embarrassment, to name a few.

Sure, it’s fun to torment kids. I catch myself doing it all the time. :-0

But oftentimes, the bear crawl form is rushed and sloppy at best. At no point during the crawl is the kid working on coordination, resisting rotation, activating the vestibular system, and building reflexive core strength.

So what’s the alternative?

In regards to the leopard crawl, kids exclaim, “This is WAY harder than a bear crawl!” I told you already…I read books.

All the credit for this one, however, goes to the guys of Original Strength. Being mindful with your crawling by synchronizing opposite limb movement, and taking your sweet ass time helps to improve neural connections in the brain.

To add, it ties your body’s “X” together and builds a strong connection between the left and right hemispheres.

What’s more, is the leopard crawl must be done with the knees low to the ground and minimal compensation (or swaying) of the hips and spine, thus placing more load on the anterior core. And you’ll still be able to torment kids with this one, I promise.

That’s Me Just Getting Started…

To wrap up, there aren’t just 3 youth strength and conditioning traditions that must die, but these were the few that make me want to slap a bitch. Believe me, there are PLENTY and maybe I’ll get to them in a Part 2, 3, 4, or 100 of this post.

But to avoid writing a dissertation, I’ll stop here.

You’re welcome.

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