There is always talk about the best exercise or the best piece of equipment in the performance training industry. Everyone always get excited to talk about what they think is best. Young athletes also get exercised about doing what their favorite college or professional athlete is doing. Young athletes try to emulate their favorite athletes training program and this is where things get really dicey.
Young athletes and unfortunately their parents see what a college or professional athlete is doing and thinks it would be a great idea for little Johnny or Suzy to be doing the same exact thing. Ummmmm, this is a problem. Just because a physically mature athlete can perform a certain exercise does not mean it is appropriate or in the youth athletes best interest to be doing the same.
There is a time and place for all exercises to be performed during a training career, but it must be an exercise that is best suited for each individual athlete at the specific training level they are currently at.
Below I will give a few examples to give you an idea of what I am talking about.
1. The bench press is a great exercise at building upper body strength. It is simple enough that most athletes can perform it without many issues. And here is another point, just because an athlete can perform an exercise does not mean there isn’t a better option that will give them more bang for their buck at their current level of training. The push up will ingrain proper pushing form, teach the athletes to engage their core musculature and stabilize their scapula as they maintain proper posture. On the flip side of the coin, when pushups are too difficult or cannot be regressed, the bench press would actually be a regression. It’s funny how that works and that is just another reason that a professional sport performance coach should be involved with the athletes training program.
2. The chin up is arguably the best exercise at building upper body strength for the back. Again, this does not mean that every athlete is ready to perform a chin up on day one. Some might have poor shoulder stability or extra weight that would make performing a chin up detrimental. A chest supported row on the other hand would be a better option in either of these cases. This would allow the athlete to work on their shoulder stability in a supported manner without the fear of creating great shoulder instability.
3. The Back squat is king and the majority of high school athletes cannot perform it properly. There are many reasons for this, but a few could be that an athlete is going through a growth spurt limiting their mobility to perform a squat. Other reasons include limited hip and ankle mobility, poor core stability, poor external rotation at the shoulder and poor thoracic extension in the upper back. As you can see there are many reasons that squatting is going to be problematic in most high school programs. A goblet split squat is usually a better option in most of these situations as it limits many issues seen in the back squat.
I hope this gives you an idea of how even though an exercise is great it might not be appropriate for an athlete at their current training level and physical maturity. This doesn’t mean that you cannot work towards those exercises. In fact I hope you are working towards performing these exercises with the majority of your athletes, but it takes time to develop the qualities needed to make them ready for these great exercises.
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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