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Physiological Considerations for Youth Soccer Players Utilizing Resistance Training


This article was generously provided by Michael Rose, MS (University of Pittsburgh) CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) of New Wave Soccer Conditioning.

New Wave Soccer Conditioning (newwavesoccer.com) is an on-line, soccer specific strength & conditioning program that includes videos, graphic pictures/photos, & written instructions for drills/exercises along with program design options for those individuals interested in purchasing the program (by clicking on any 'signup' link buttons on the web site).


As discussed in last month抯 (part 1) tip, it might be a good idea for youth soccer players (12-14 years old) to start a moderate resistance(strength) training program to help decrease the risk of overuse injuries that can develop from playing soccer on a year round basis, which places repetitive stress on the body. Last month抯 tip focused on safety concerns.

This month抯 tip will discuss factors for strength improvement in the youth (12-14 years old) soccer player. Recent scientific evidence does suggest that children can participate in a resistance training program prior to reaching physical maturity, and obtain strength gains. However, it is important to keep in mind that the growth and development, which occurs during childhood, will itself contribute to strength gains made by children. Therefore, it might be difficult to determine how much of the strength gains is the result of a resistance program.

However, it is known that resistance training programs for children can produce strength gains beyond what is normal due to growth and development during those years. Individuals, who have not yet reached physical maturity, do not have the needed levels of circulating testosterone necessary to stimulate increases in muscle size. Therefore, it appears that the majority of strength gains made by children from a resistance training program are the result of neural adaptations. This refers to an increase in motor unit activation.

There is a greater recruitment and firing of motor units, which includes the muscle fibers(cells) they innervate. It is also important to know that increased strength can also be the result of improvements in motor skill performance and the coordination of the involved muscle groups.

Because strength gains made by prepubescent children are primarily due to neural adaptations and not increased muscle mass, it does appear that these gains will be lost soon after resistance training has been discontinued. Because increased muscle mass is not possible for prepubescent children participating in resistance training, this should not be a goal for their training program.

Once they become physically mature and the circulating levels of testosterone increases, there will be an increase in muscle mass while continuing to utilize a resistance training program. It is important to know that children mature physically at different rates. Therefore, each individual has to make adjustments to his or her own strength & conditioning program according to when he or she reaches physical maturity.

You cannot strictly follow a certain age for determining the design of your strength & conditioning program. Not all 13 year olds are at the same stage of their physical development. It is also important to keep in mind that children are not miniature adults, and should not train like adults.

Michael Rose, MS, CSCS offers an on-line, soccer specific strength & conditioning program at www.newwavesoccer.com.














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