THE ‘too much, too young’ narrative regarding teenage athletes committing to approved strength and conditioning (S&C) programmes doesn’t stack up once one examines the research-based evidence.
That was the primary observation offered by Joey O’Brien, the WIT Arena’s Lead S&C Coach, while speaking at the UPMC Sports Medicine Roadshow hosted by the Arena in Carriganore on Wednesday, October 23.
“Strength training was both safe and effective for adolescents and adult athletes,” according to research which accounted for 8,000 participants over six randomised control trials, including a strength training group and non-strength training group.
Quoting the research, Mr O’Brien added: “Strength training reduced sports injuries by 66 per cent…and a 10 per cent increase in strength training volume resulted in a reduced (injury) risk of four per cent.”
Mr O’Brien also referred to another randomised control study involving 52 elite soccer players aged 13 or 14 (in which all were tested for maturation status) which was divided into two groups, controlled and strength training.
“The strength training group strength trained three days a week (which was) tailored to the athletes’ status and capability. An interesting finding from this paper over (the course of) a year is that there were 17 injuries, all lower body, a lot of them soft tissue – four to the training group that was strength training three days a week – and 13 to the group that didn’t strength train. So the latter group was three times more likely to get injured which is pretty positive in terms of the benefits that come with approved strength training for adolescent athletes.”
Joey O’Brien added that weight “loads are individualised to the athlete’s capability and altered appropriately over to the training cycle and for me that loading is probably the most important thing. Every athlete is different – different age groups, different genders – so you can’t train everyone the same. It has to be individualised to their needs.”
Given the misconceptions that parents may have in relation to their teenage children undertaking weights programmes at development or elite squad level, Joey O’Brien said that specification – and qualified coaching know-how – was key.
“It’s all about programming to the individual athlete’s needs, be it an adult rugby player, a senior inter-county GAA hurler or footballer or an under-14 development player squatting with a four kilo kettlebell,” he said.
“You’ve got to programme to their needs, it’s not a one size fits all programme for everybody. And those programmes develop through under 14s, 15s and 16s. In fairness to (GAA) Coaching & Games, they’re doing great work now; the development squads have been for a few weeks now on their winter programmes, they get 12 weeks up in the High Performance Gym (at WIT) and we show them the basics from overhead squatting, testing mobility and flexibility to basic body weight squats, body weight pull-ups and then we progress it from there.”