Saturday, April 28, 2012

Plyometrics for Children - Good or Bad?

With competitive youth sports on the rise, many coaches are pushing their young athletes (ages of 7 and 12) to perform plyometric exercises in an effort to increase their speed, quickness, power and jumping abilities.  Although there is a proven benefit to this type of training for youth athletes, one must carefully monitor the volume of plyometric repetitions and sets to prevent joint and muscle injuries.  For example, having the child perform three 45 to 60 minute sessions of advanced lower body plyometric drills (i.e., 32" box depth jumps) per week may place too must stress on their legs, resulting in short and/or long term injury.  

More importantly, there are many youth sport coaches who are lacking formal fitness education which is a becoming an epidemic due to the vast internet (i.e. random YouTube training videos, etc).  Youth sports conditioning is a specialized field and every parent should inquire about their coach's fitness background before having their child exposed to this type of intensive training.

In the interim, here are a few key tips to consider when exposing your child athlete to plyometrics:
  • Ensure the instructor/coach is a qualified fitness professional
  • Program needs to be specially designed and appropriate to the age of the child 
  • Each session should begin with a 5 to 10 minute dynamic warm up (i.e. jumping jacks, high knees, jump roping)
  • Avoid performing plyometric drills more than 2 times per week (nonconsecutive days)
  • Allow for adequate recovery time (1 1/2 to 3 minutes rest) between sets and exercises
  • Avoid performing plyometrics drills on hard surfaces such as asphalt and concrete
  • Wear properly cushioned sneakers to help absorb joint impact

Lastly, the child athlete should perfect basic plyometric techniques before progressing to more advanced drills. This is another common mistake that can often lead to injury if not corrected by a certified strength and conditioning coach/trainer early on in their training.    

In closing, plyometrics is an effective way to jump start your child's athletic future; however, I encourage every parent to proceed with a cautious eye when exposing their son or daughter to this type of conditioning program.  After all, your child's health and well being should always be a priority! 

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