I’ve worked with athletes ages 21 and under, who often have all the drive, determination, and persistence a strength coach could ever hope to find in an athlete.
Those younger athletes understand commitment, sacrifice, and doing what it takes at an early age to work towards the big picture of success in their sport.
And yet, too often, I’ll see one major gap in these same athletes’ training and year-to-year development into a sport.
That gap often falls because some athletes have a very generic training plan or no training plan at all. It is like being on a ship on a destination. But not having anyone at the wheel or using a compass to assure the course is kept on track.
Here’s why it’s so important for younger athletes to follow a well-developed training plan to ensure their short and long-term athletic success.
Training Versus Working Out
A formal training plan is much more than just going to a gym and going through random exercises and drills.
No matter how many of those you do, aimless, directionless, tossed together bits of workout programs get athletes nowhere and perhaps even injured doing so.
I’ve had athletes tell me about their training plan, and when I ask for examples of weeks past, present, or future, they fail to lay out the details of this plan other than very general outlines.
Real training is a structured system of organized workouts with fixed places and times to bring about a set of physical adaptations very unique to the athlete’s needs and requirements for a sport.
Every workout is designed to bank off of the last workout and prepare for the next one to come.
Know Your Goals
To bring about these unique sets of adaptations through proper training, an athlete must know what they want out of a training plan.
What physical goals does that athlete want to capitalize on? Is it strength? Speed? Power? Acceleration? Aerobic capacity? Some of each?
And In what time frame? How much improvement is enough to be useful in the sport?
The more detailed and specific an athlete can be with their goals, the better off I find them to get on the right program for them and them alone.
The SMARTS goals are what I use with all my athletes to develop such goals.
Finding The Right Training Plan
It’s tempting for younger athletes to follow their friends, celebrities, social media, and online programs by questionable experts they never meet or speak with.
Any of these may be OK or even decent, sure. Still, more often than not, they are very generic, not appropriate for their age, readiness, sport, position, or the athlete’s physical stature and build.
Any young athlete should develop good habits early on in and outside the gym. This builds the foundation on which years of effective training can be built.
Having an athlete work with a degree-holding (exercise science, kinesiology, sports science) and NSCA-CSCS qualified is a great way to assure that athletes get a plan built for them. And them alone the peculiarities that come with each unique person and their respective sport.
This specialized professional and coach can build a customized program around the athlete and not force it to make the program work for them. Using the expertise of a degreed strength and conditioning coach also takes all the guesswork out of trying to find the best plan for you.
Reps, sets, frequency, duration, intensity, heart rates, days per week, loads to pick all of that can be confusing and time-consuming to try and figure out.
If you have your goals in check and go through a formalized screening process with your strength and conditioning coach, leave all the rest of these things to them.
Where do you find a strength and conditioning coach or expert-developed training plan?
Start with the NSCA trainer/coach locater. Search by the CSCS credential and your local area to see who is local and what availability they have for in-person or remote coaching.
Also check out TrainHeroic Marketplace for qualified coach-developed programs by sport, age, goal, and level of play. All you need is the free app to get full program access with coach feed, videos, and full daily workout details sent to you.
Customize and Adapt
The best part about finding a legit professional strength and conditioning coach is that they help build out an initial training program. This program will not only identify your weaknesses and deficits but also prescribes the best exercises, drills, and movements for your body type, sport, position, and injury history.
A strength coach can also monitor your progress every week to properly progress you at the fastest rate possible without risking pointless injury and overtraining matters.
Life often happens to young athletes, and school, family, social lives, jobs, and competition plans may slow you down from time to time.
A strength coach can adapt plans around these events and even offer alternatives to continue to make some progress compared to no improvement and lost time, regression, or plateaus.