Doctors are seeing a growing number of young athletes with injuries sustained in the weight room. This is completely unacceptable. The weight room is a place to get better and prevent injuries, not cause them. The problem is that too many athletes lack a foundation for a safe strength training workout.
The typical weightlifting program style is either Olympic or power. Olympic lifts, such as the Clean, Clean and Jerk and Snatch, emphasize speed (learn how Olympic lifts increase speed). Power lifts, such as the Bench Press, Deadlift and Squat, focus on strength. Most programs blend these two styles, which leads to many issues if an athlete isn't ready for them.
Two primary concerns are associated with these styles:
Olympic lifts are complicated for young athletes. You can't pick up the bar and do a proper Clean without extensive instruction. Form issues can limit gains from the exercise and even cause serious injury.
Too Much Too Soon
Power lifts are simpler and can be taught fairly quickly. The problem is that young athletes often want to load the bar without even being able to perform the exercises properly with their body weight. This is a serious problem and one of the primary causes of injury.
Several things need to be taken into account to avoid potentially serious weight room issues.
- When starting out, have a certified strength coach assess mobility and strength to identify weaknesses or faulty movement patterns
- To learn a movement, start with body weight; a broomstick is a great tool for learning proper Olympic lifting technique
- Use a periodized program that includes hypertrophy, strength and power phases, and that is timed to peak for the season
- Always report any discomfort during a lift. It could be an early indicator of an injury, and you don't want it to get worse
- Ask for instruction when you need it; there's no shame in breaking out the broomstick to practice an exercise
- When learning new exercises, always do so in the presence of a certified strength coach
If you are diligent in following these recommendations, you will build a solid foundation on which to improve your athletic performance in the weight room.
Start learning Olympic lifts with this three-part series:
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