Parents will often ask me what their young athletes can do to become better athletes.
Here are three very simple things that young athletes can implement immediately to instantly become better athletes.
1. Get your young athlete’s butt in gear
What do I mean? Simple. Get their glutes (butt) contributing more in all activities. One simple thing they can do is become more “glute (butt)-conscious.” Get up and walk around with their hands on their hips and voluntarily engage their butt muscles. As they walk around throughout the day they should take a few moments to consciously engage their glutes each time their foot contacts the ground. The more they do this, the more they will strengthen the mind to muscle connections and the better their glutes will function.
Also have them do glute bridges from the ground by holding each rep for 10 seconds for 3 total sets. This is a great way for them to feel the contraction from the glutes. Make sure to have them visualize each vertebrae of the spine coming off the ground like a train leaving the station and the same thing on the way down, visualize the train coming back one vertebrae at a time. This ensures that the extension of the hips comes from the powerful butt muscles and not the compressive forces in the lower back.
It’s also important to teach them to brace their abs by asking them to visualize preparing for a punch in the stomach or simply tying an elastic band around their stomach and cue them to expand the band with their abdominals throughout the Glute Bridge.
2. Activate the young athlete’s forefoot
Most young athletes are rear foot dominant, which means they carry too much weight on their heels when they walk, run or move in general. Watch good athletes move. They’re always up on the balls of their feet. If you want your young athlete to be a good athlete they need to get off their rear foot and onto their forefoot. How do they do that? One simple thing they can do is train barefoot. Their body won’t let them move rear foot dominant when they’re barefoot because it’ll hurt too much. As an experiment have them take their shoes off and lightly jog a few steps down the street. The ONLY way they can do this is to get up on their forefoot. Don’t train them on concrete, but if you have access to a fairly soft surface (grass is ideal and most carpet works fine), don’t hesitate to scrap the shoes for a while.
3. Apply the above to progressive movement patterns
Try this one simple drill. Find a fairly soft surface, have them take off their shoes, and place a pencil or piece of tape on the ground. Now, have them pull their toes back and hop back and forth over it quickly. They should try to get as many reps as they can in 10 seconds. With a little practice 30 is a good number for them to shoot for. Have them repeat this for 2 more sets. They can do this drill three days per week.
These are very simple yet effective strategies to improve your young athletes performance on the field, court or mat today. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can make the biggest differences.
Tim Rudd is an International Youth Conditioning Association specialist in youth conditioning (level 3), speed and agility (level 2), and nutrition specialist (level 1). For more information on anything you read in Training Time, email him at Tim@Fit2TheCore.com.
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