When in position to program and plan the training of adolescent athletes, what training methods should one chose to elicit the largest improvements in physical performance? Are the Olympic lifts safe and appropriate for this population? Are traditional resistance training methods a better way to go? How about plyometric training? A new study conducted by Chaouachi et al. (2014) published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated this topic. In a large cohort of 10-12 year old children (n=63), the young athletes were randomly divided into one of four groups; an Olympic lifting group; a Plyometric group; a Traditional Resistance Training group; and a Condtrol Group. Prior to a 12 week training intervention, the subjects were given a 2 week (6 workouts) familiarization period to learn the exercises and protocols of the training program. Testing included the assessment of body mass index (BMI), skinfold thickness, countermovement jump, horizontal jump, balance, and 5 and 20 meter sprint times. Training volume and intensity for each program was in accordance with standardized methods (i.e., 1-3 sets, 8-12 reps). The following table displays the training structure for each training group.
Olympic Lifting Group
Traditional Resistance Group
|Push Press||Ballistic/Clapping Push Up||Alt. Flat/Include DB Press|
|DB/KB Cross Body Pull||Fwd/Bkwd Med Ball Throws||Unilateral Shoulder Flyes/Press|
In sequence, the greatest improvements in each performance variable based on Effect Sizes were as follows;
CMJ: Oly, Plyo, RT, C
Horizontal Jump: Oly, RT, Plyo, C
Balance: Plyo, RT, Oly, C
BMI: RT, Oly, Plyo, C
5 meter: RT, Oly, Plyo, C
20 meter: RT, Oly, Plyo, C
This study demonstrated that Olympic Lifting can be quite effective for adolescent athletes for improving physical performance. It is also likely that due to their young age and mobility/flexibility, they can better learn proper technique in these movements. It appears quite clearly however that a combination of all three exercise modalities would likely be superior to each in isolation. Each provides its own unique benefits for performance enhancement and injury risk reduction. Provided the program is professionally implemented and monitored, each of these training modalities may be used with adolescents to improve athletic performance.
Chaouachi, A., Hammami, R., Kaabi, S., Chamari, K., Drinkwater, E. J., Behm, D. G., & Aspetar, Q. O. (2013). Olympic weightlifting and plyometric training with children provides similar or greater performance improvements than traditional resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, E-Pub Ahead of Print.