Is Velocity Based Training Suitable for Youth Athletes?

By Coach Joey Wannouch

Is Velocity Based Training Suitable in Youth Athletes?

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The Changing Face of Youth Sports 

The landscape of youth sport is witnessing an unprecedented level of seriousness [1], with a growing number of young athletes participating in structured training programs. This shift towards more formalized athletic preparation is leading to an increased focus on utilizing resistance training to enhance athletic development and improve performance [1, 2].  

Coaching the Next Generation

Strength and Conditioning (S&C) coaches play a pivotal role in this evolution, it is our duty to employ effective strategies in the weight room that improve strength-specific skills on the field for our youth athletes [3, 4]. Typically, when coaches instruct youth athletes on these strength-specific movements such as the squat or deadlift, we prioritize and focus purely on enhancing skill acquisition [5, 6]. While a technique-first approach is predominant, coaches should also consider when to introduce outcome-oriented targets to strength movements, such as velocity-based metrics tracked by technological devices such as GymAware or Flex. 

Beyond Age – Evaluating Technical Proficiency  

The concept that youth athletes lack the technical skill required for effective use of velocity-based training (VBT) due to their age is a misconstrued assumption. Coaches are encouraged to reference the athletes individual training age as a more relevant measure of movement skill than chronological age when considering incorporating VBT into a program. As some coaches working in the field with youth may know, athletes that are participating in structured training and are committed to their program, can undoubtedly achieve a level of technical proficiency in their movements at an early age [4, 7, 8]. The current research consensus tells us that young athletes can commence resistance training as early as 5 years of age [4, 8]. Therefore, an athlete who consistently trains can have a training age of 5 years by the age of 10. The prevailing misconception appears to disregard these youth athletes, who shouldn’t be viewed as exceptions but rather as increasingly common in the current organised sporting landscape. The recommendations for initiating resistance training at an early age are designed with the objective of improving technical proficiency and preparing the young athletes for more outcome-oriented resistance training goals further into their athletic development.  

Setting the Threshold for VBT Integration 

An S&C coach’s informed judgment is crucial in determining when a youth athlete has reached a level of technical proficiency that allows for effective VBT. This subjective threshold will vary between individuals and should guide the shift from focusing solely on technique to introducing performance outcomes objectively measured through velocity metrics.  

Balancing Technique with Velocity 

When integrating VBT into a resistance training program, coaches need to ensure they maintain a balance between focusing on technique and pursuing increased movement velocities to avoid compromising on athlete form and safety. GymAware can provide a solution that allows for this balance, offering both quantitative velocity tracking and qualitive feedback. Additionally, the GymAware system can also measure displacement in both the vertical and horizontal movement planes. This adds an additional element to monitoring technique through quantitative recognition of how consistently an athlete achieves a desired range of motion and how much they horizontally deviate from a movement specific vertical bar path.  

Embracing the Potential of VBT in Youth

The growing trend of increased technical proficiency among young athletes suggests that VBT could play a significant role in enhancing their athletic development. This blog aims to dispel the common misconceptions about the suitability of VBT in youth. With there is an increasing number of commercially available velocity-monitoring devices on the market, coaches need to ensure that the devices they use are both valid and reliable. GymAware and Flex provide both valid and reliable options.  

Conclusion – A New Paradigm in Youth Training 

Given the increasing seriousness of youth sports, younger athletes possessing a high level of technical proficiency is becoming more normal, and coaches should acknowledge the potential of VBT in augmenting the training of youth athletes. I hope this blog can shed light on the common misconception that most youth athletes lack the technical proficiency required for VBT. I urge coaches not to make the erroneous assumption equating technical proficiency with chronological age. VBT devices such as GymAware or Flex can enhance the athletic development of youth athletes through objective velocity monitoring strategies. 

References 

  1. Koopmann T, Faber I, Baker J, Schorer J. Assessing technical skills in talented youth athletes: A systematic review. Sports Med. 2020;50:1593-611. 
  1. Behringer M, Vom Heede A, Matthews M, Mester J. Effects of strength training on motor performance skills in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2011;23(2):186-206. 
  1. Varghese M, Ruparell S, LaBella C. Youth athlete development models: A narrative review. Sports Health. 2022;14(1):20-9. 
  1. Faigenbaum AD, Stracciolini A, MacDonald JP, Rebullido TR. Mythology of youth resistance training. Br J Sports Med. 2022. 
  1. Morris SJ, Oliver JL, Pedley JS, Haff GG, Lloyd RS. Taking a long-term approach to the development of weightlifting ability in young athletes. Strength Cond J. 2020;42(6):71-90. 
  1. Suchomel TJ, Nimphius S, Bellon CR, Hornsby WG, Stone MH. Training for muscular strength: Methods for monitoring and adjusting training intensity. Sports Med. 2021;51(10):2051-66. 
  1. Keiner M, Sander A, Wirth K, Caruso O, Immesberger P, Zawieja M. Strength performance in youth: Trainability of adolescents and children in the back and front squats. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(2):357-62. 
  1. Myer GD, Lloyd RS, Brent JL, Faigenbaum AD. How young is “too young” to start training? ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013;17(5):14. 

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Coach Joey Wannouch

Joey Wannouch

Joey Wannouch is a sport scientist at Precision Sport Science in California, USA. He is currently completing his PhD in Velocity Based Training in Youth Athletes and works as a sessional academic at Swinburne University of Technology. He is passionate about improving the application of performance training and monitoring methods in youth athletes.