Top Six Conditioning Exercises for Youth Athletes
So there we were, panting on the floor, gasping for air. Our heart and lungs felt like they were on fire! Our legs were gooey and felt like melted candle wax and our upper back muscles gave out quiet little spasms as they flexed and relaxed under duress of the intense conditioning session we just performed.
This is how it feels to push your body to the max and grind through endless rounds of high intensity physical efforts. It’s not necessarily painful, but it is down right demanding and it takes the wind right out of you.
So why do we put our bodies through such rigorous bouts of physical effort?
When you’re looking for that particular edge in sports or athletics time and time again, better conditioned athletes always stand out.
They are the ones that are still performing at a high level in that late third period. The ones with at least one more slam dunk. One more touchdown. One more takedown.
These athletes have the edge over their competition because they are conditioned to perform at a high level ALL THE TIME! And they never get tired. They might get winded initially, but they’re able to take a short rest and then repeat the same high intensity performance again and again. Every set, every rep, every sprint, every jump, they have managed to stave off fatigue which helps them make the big plays and take the competition out of their element. Conditioning exercises are designed to stimulate increased metabolic performances in our young athletes.
To a coach it matters very little if an athlete is really, really fast! What matters is are they fast even after several attempts or periods in the sporting arena. Who cares if you can run a 40 meter sprint in 4.32 on the field? The real question is can you repeat it?
Favorite Conditioning Exercises
Here’s a few of my favorite conditioning activities that help condition our young Elite Athletes here at Hostyle Conditioning, where we train our athletes not to just be strong, but be fast and resilient on the playing field.
Prowler sprints – These are either a heavy or lightly weighted sled with a grinding or velocity specific approach to help engage all the lower body musculature and core force transfer from floor to sled. Perfect for all athletes who want to be seriously fast!
Sled drags –These are another weighted sled exercise where the athlete pulls the sled either forward or reverse for distance or time. Moving a heavy load really fast helps increase overall force production, which translates well to speed transfer.
Barbell Complexes – Although these exercises take time to learn (ie. snatch, power clean, push press, squat, deadlift, pulls), once they have a small amount of coaching under their belt they can attribute to a great conditioning effect since they involve performing several compound movements in sequence. Various sequences lead to an enhanced overall conditioning effect targeting a wide variety of muscle groups and force patterns, not to mention enhanced fat burning.
Kettlebell Swings + Combinations –The kettlebell is our tool of choice for many conditioning drills since it incorporates a lot of overall core, hip and upper body musculature simultaneously. You can pair a kettlebell with just about any type of regular training program for enhanced conditioning and fat burning effects.
Sprints –The simplest and easiest conditioning exercise out there is simply sprinting with various forms of timing parameters. Depending on the energy system to be targeted sprints can be tailored towards any type of athlete desired to build that particular energy system. Take football players who need short bursts of controlled violence with about 5-10 seconds of work followed by a short rest. Try a 10-15 meter shuttle sprint, guaranteed to turn your hard core athletes into slithering piles of sweat in less than four minutes.
Sandbags, Battling Ropes and Heavy Carries – One of the long lost influences in conditioning is several simple tools that can really make the difference in an athletes training program. While battling ropes may be a new addition into many training arsenals, the sand bag has been utilized for years in the military as an essential piece of training equipment and pretty much anything that can be carried, pulled, shouldered or hugged and carried for a certain distance. Following on the footsteps of several great coaches, heavy carries and sandbag exercises are sure to help improve the overall mental toughness, core stability and improve on just about everything.
As you can see there’s ten million different ways to get in better condition, but these conditioning exercises are some of the best methods for providing overall balance to help you build a fast, well conditioning athlete that can outlast, out-perform and overall just kick the crap out of anything that comes there way. Remember, it’s not just the strongest or the fastest athlete that wins games, it’s the one who can keep playing at a high level for the whole game.
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