It is like a computer program with missing files; you can use the program, just not fully. This is the same idea comparing training programs to children and adults. They can do cardiovascular and strength training; the difference, physical maturity. For example, a 6 to a 10-year-old child does not have the same cardiovascular, muscular or nervous system as an adult. They lack specific development at this age, and there are some major differences you should know.
The Cardiovascular System
Children are highly aerobic. You can see why they can run around all day long. They have a ton of endurance. Even when they are running fast, it is primarily aerobic because their anaerobic system has not developed yet. Children have significantly fewer glycogen stores than adults, about 40-50% less, which means they fatigue quickly during high-intensity exercise. Children rely more on fat oxidation than adults do. So, if you try to push too much intensity on your young athlete, you can injure them.
When doing sport or training sessions and or activities with young athletes, keep the duration short. However, understand they don’t need much rest time between the next set of the drill. High-intensity training, drills, and activities don’t improve a young athlete’s anaerobic power just yet. It is not the right time to push them anaerobically because they don’t have a system to do it. Like the computer system, their files are still missing.
The Musculoskeletal System
Your athlete’s muscles and bones are still developing and growing, so it is not time to apply high levels of tension and force. Firstly, your athlete’s muscles are dissipating force. Their muscles don’t quite know or “have the files” about how to absorb force just yet. In the growth phase, heavy resistance training is harmful and will stunt their growth. However, your athletes can do resistance training. You need to focus on high reps with good form and function. It is good for them to understand how to strength train at an early age. It will help prevent injuries when they get older and boost their athletic potential. So, aerobic weight training is best.
Develop muscular strength through an aerobic weight training program using light weights around 12-15 reps. This will enhance their performance and ability. They will have a more substantial base of development and athletic potential rather than not doing it over the years to come.
The Nervous System
Children are not so coordinated. Their nervous systems do not have the experience or practice of movement like an adult does. With time, children learn how to develop and formulate their reflexes. As they play and move more and more, they are unconsciously manually programming their movement patterns “files” and how they need and want to move. That is why this stage is very critical to teach fundamentals and functional movements correctly.
The goal of neural training should be to improve coordination. Have practices that train coordination, reflexes, and reactions. The more proficient they are at an early age, the more heightened athletic awareness they will have with skills when they get older. Be patient and repeat many times for your athletes to do the task at hand correctly. Another great idea is to play different activities or sports. For example, playing soccer, baseball, and basketball is an excellent way to develop your athlete’s nervous system, reactions, and reflexes, as well as all other systems. You can also have your athletes do activities like swimming, climbing, skipping, and jumping. This is a great time to teach balance on one foot and other unilateral training.
Exercise and Heat
When your athletes’ core temperature rises during practice, training, or exercise, they don’t sweat as fast as adults. So, overheating is highly likely. In addition, your athlete does not adapt as quickly as you do in the heat. So, if it is difficult for you, imagine how hard it is for your athletes to train in the heat.
Keep your athletes hydrated. It is essential! Give them breaks in the shade. And take longer and more rest during practices.
Youth athletes are still developing mentally, physically, and emotionally. Therefore, their training programs cannot be the same as adults or professional athletes. However, if you train your athletes correctly now, you will develop a greater capacity than doing nothing. Therefore, the focus should be on enhancing and learning fundamentals and functional movements to develop their ability and potential. Again, like the computer, you want to develop the program’s files so it works and functions effectively. Doing this will produce more remarkable outcomes and improved athleticism and skills. So, when it is time to put the peddle to the metal, they will be ahead of the game and well prepared and developed.