Why Teenage Athletes Need Weightlifting Over Sports-Specific Strength & Conditioning; Learn to lift, learn to move.
The answer to that is simple. Most teenagers aren’t strong, and they don’t know how to move. This is not saying that learning to snatch, and clean & jerk will make an athlete better at hitting a baseball, or more skilled at dribbling and shooting a basketball. Nor will it make someone a better wrestler, or faster swimmer. It’s not going to improve footwork in soccer! All the things listed above that weightlifting will not improve, are improved by practicing the sport itself, training within the chosen sport practices, etc. There is no type of strength (or power) training that will improve an athletes SKILL in any sport, so don’t be fooled! There is ONLY training that will improve performance potential, and limit risk of injury, assuming sport-specific skill is the prerequisite.
Weightlifting itself, is an Olympic sport. The two lifts contested are some of the most complex movements seen in athletics. Improving the skill within the sport of weightlifting inherently improves athletic qualities required by most other ground-based sports as well. Many strength coaches would agree that because of the complexity of these lifts, they take too much time to learn, and aren’t worth spending the time to try and teach them. However, they keep popping up in a lot of collegiate level strength & conditioning programs all over the country for a reason! Many of these same coaches have also never spent time really learning the lifts themselves, which is why they hide behind that reasoning. There is a certain progression in building an appropriate foundation for the learning process with these lifts, one that will produce far better results in the long run than any agility ladder, battle rope, rubber band, or medicine ball will do.
What weightlifting WILL do, is;
-Improve a young athletes kinesthetic awareness and movement patterns. In essence, they will move better! The better that they move, the stronger, and more powerful they will have the ability to become. Think about it, how many times have you been into a weight room and seen people lifting where it’s clear they’ve had no instruction. You find yourself cringing, right? Silently hoping they don’t severely injure themselves. That’s where weightlifting comes in. Everyone wants to get stronger (or their young athlete to get stronger). But, they tend not to realize that improved movement patterns should be a part of that. Sure, you can get stronger and faster with poor movement patterns, but only to a certain extent and with a greater risk of injury.
-Change of direction & absorption of force. Any athlete who plays a ground-based sport, has to be able to change direction quickly in order to gain an edge on an opponent. Weightlifting inherently trains exactly that, better than any other type of training. For example, learning variations of the barbell clean, trains an athlete to safely, and effectively absorb the force of a dynamic load in a balanced position, and change direction following an explosive extension of the knees and hips.
-Legs/ Knees & Hips. These areas are likely the MOST important area of the body for most athletes. Afterall, for any ground based sport, that IS the connection to the ground. In weightlifting, the goal is to move a loaded barbell through the vertical plane, as quickly, and proficiently as possible. As skill develops with strength and power through the hips and legs, so won’t speed, mobility, and agility.
Through the application of the individually appropriate progressions to the Olympic lifts, young athletes will be a step ahead of the game by the time they get to college. Until then, the athletic skills trained in weightlifting, will have carryover to most other ground-based sports that exceed the benefits of most other forms of strength & conditioning.
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