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Ways to Prepare Young Athletes for Return to Sports at Home

Strength training for young athletes is achievable in an at-home setting with, or without, weighted equipment.  Strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce against a resistance.  With this in mind, you will need resistance against the muscle to works towards strengthening, but that resistance can be something you have in your home (i.e. filled water bottle, canned food, books, a filled plastic container).   Overall, the resistance you use needs to challenge your muscle against its everyday force potential.  

-Guidelines suggest that the correct amount of resistance to produce strength gains is the amount that fatigues the muscle/or muscles at the end of an 8 – 12 rep set.  In this case, fatigue means the muscle is challenged to the point where completing another repetition of the exercise would be very difficult and may compromise form.  I suggest 2 -3 sets of the 8 – 12 repetitions, when pushing the muscle to fatigue, will be sufficient to produce strength gains.  If an athlete is new to the exercise, starting with 2 sets and working up to 3 over time can help reduce prolonged soreness post-exercise.  Keep in mind though, that in order to gain strength you still need to take the muscle to fatigue within those sets and some muscle soreness is expected and normal.

-Sports specific strength training can be achieved by focusing on the muscle groups that will need to generate the most force during an athlete’s game-day performance.  However, you should still be focusing on strength training exercises for the upper and lower body and, most importantly the core.  I suggest a heavier focus on muscles that constitute the posterior chain of the body.  These are the muscles along your back, the back of our arms, legs, etc.  When spending a considerable amount of time sitting, we shorten the muscles in the anterior portion of the body.  Focusing on the posterior portion, can open up the anterior chain and help work on maintaining good upright posturing.

-Examples of upper extremity exercises:

  • Rows:  Single arm bent over rows might be the easiest to perform at home with a focus on correct form.  Here you are working on the back and shoulder blade muscles that help maintain upright posturing and gives us a good base of support to control upper extremity movement.
  • Dips:  This exercise can be performed with just the use of a chair and focuses primarily on the triceps along the back of the arm that perform extension or straightening of the elbow.  Stronger triceps help bring stability to the shoulder and help produce more force with all pushing activities. Bodyweight should be enough resistance for those beginning to develop tricep strength


-Examples of lower extremity exercises:

  • Squats:  Squats are great overall lower body exercises that with correct form can engage the glutes and hamstrings of the posterior chain while working the quadriceps anteriorly.  Utilizing good form works the core and allows for the greatest force potential in the posterior chain.  Good form is achieved by thinking of the hips as a hinge and bending the hips on decent while pushing the buttocks backward.  When standing push through the heels and squeeze the gluts to gain the most posterior chain recruitment.
  • Forward Lunge:  When performing a lunge you want to make sure you step forward with enough distance that when you lower to the ground the forward knee does not go past your toes.  Additionally, you can help avoid this by keeping your back straight and focus on lowering the hips to the ground during the forward lunge rather than thinking of lunging forward.


-In an earlier blog, core stability exercises were addressed with a primary focus on planks as a good go-to core-focused exercise.  Again, when performing the exercises discussed above, using a good form with upright posturing while tightening your abdominal muscles will help with core stability.

-Strength training should be performed a minimum of twice per week to maintain strength gains.  The easiest way to incorporate the upper body, lower body and core strengthening exercises into your weekly workouts is to perform them all in a circuit workout format.  In a circuit you can perform alternating upper body, lower body, and core strengthening exercises allowing rest and recovery for the alternating muscle groups.  This also allows for a combined cardio workout if you incorporate short to no rest breaks in between exercises. 

-An example of a circuit workout is listed below:

  • Dynamic warm-up and stretches as per prior blog x 3-5 minutes
  • Weighted exercises using a weight that produces fatigue at 8-12 repetition of the exercise
  • Squats: 8-12 reps            
  • Single-arm rows: 8-12 reps per side
  • Forward plank: 1-2 minute hold
  • Lunges: 8-12 reps per side
  • Dips: 8-12 reps
  • Side plank: 1-minute hold per side
  • Repeat 1-2 times
  • Cool down /stretches as needed.

-By taking short (30 seconds or less) to no rest breaks in between the strength exercises listed above, you can increase your heart rate and incorporate a cardio workout into your strength training routine. 


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