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Grassroots Football
Age related Strength and Conditioning
 
by Mike Clegg (Sunderland AFC Strength & Conditioning Coach)Mike CleggMike Clegg
Our bodies are an amazingly complex web of interconnected muscles, joints, fascia, ligaments, tendons, and bones all seamlessly working together which allows us to live and function in the world.
However people are not happy just to be sedentary therefore sports have been developed to show physical attributes which correlate best to particular sports.

Soccer is an Artistic, skillful, cognitive game which requires the attributes of speed, strength, power, flexibility, mobility and reactions. You need this full body connectedness to best manipulate the 1 thing we all love – the ball.

So how best do we develop the body to become proficient to which then can be best adapted to specific football skill acquirement?

The basic building blocks from birth → adolescent → adulthood is to train movements. This is a natural progression which happens systematically. Look at a baby he/she 1st learns to roll, then, crawl, then walk, then run, then jump, then hop, then who knows what’s possible?

It isn’t about training individual muscles!

The problem is sometimes these fundamental skills get missed which then causes chronic long term deficiencies which can possibly lead to inefficient movement mechanics which potentially limit the level of what you can achieve as a Soccer player/Athlete

Strength & Conditioning exercises work in a pyramidal type organizational hierarchy.Strength & Conditioning exercises work in a pyramidal type organizational hierarchy.

Or a more elaborate system is when we begin to start filling in the elements of each section.

There are 7 fundamental movement patterns which the human being and especially an aspiring footballer needs to master:-

7 fundamental movement patterns7 fundamental movement patterns1) Squat

2) Lunge

3) Hip Hinge

4) Pull

5) Push

6) Core

7) Gait/Locomotion
(See lowest rung of the development pyramid)

Skill Development
The execution of any skilled movement requires a sophisticated series of signals sent from the brain to muscles. Muscles fibres must be activated in the proper sequence to perform skilled movement with any proficiency.

Developing Soccer Strength there are 2 primary objectives :-

1) Prevent injury (stopping long-term imbalances)
2) Enhancement to performance levels.

Muscles are needed to protect the body and to move the body efficiently and effectively. Once this is achieved progression up the pyramid becomes an easier process with less chance of injury or long term imbalances occurring.
Strength programs have got to be age specific, training age specific and beneficial for the actual sport you perform in.
Using a LTAD (long term athlete development plan) it is essential to recognize at which level you are at in the continuum


he Long Term Athletic Development model - Late Specialization Sportshe Long Term Athletic Development model - Late Specialization Sports

For age specific training requirements there is 1 more bit of science we have to look into:-


Physical Development and Maturation
The evaluation of younger athletes is heavily influenced by their individual rates of physical development and maturation. The period of the adolescent growth spurt (typically 12 to 15 years for females and 14 to 17 years for males) is characterised by wide variations in the rate of development of physical, psychological and skill attributes. The peak height velocity of 8 to 10cms (3 to 4 in.) per year is typically attained around the age of 12 years for girls and 14 years for boys (see figure 8.1). Aerobic training can be increased after peak height velocity is reached. Strength and power training is accelerated a little later in boys, typically around 15 or 16 years of age.

The awkward adolescent phase in which motor skills decline transiently during periods of rapid growth is well known to most coaches of adolescent athletes (Beunen & Malina, 1988).
From early childhood to maturation, people go through several stages of development: pre-puberty, puberty, post-puberty and maturity. Each stage has a corresponding phase of athletic training. Various models of long-term athlete development have been developed to assist the coach in preparing junior and adolescent athletes

pre-puberty, puberty, post-puberty and maturity phases of athletic trainingpre-puberty, puberty, post-puberty and maturity phases of athletic training
U5s-U11s

Starting with the younger age group we have to have a long term plan, which we can break down into achievable chunks, see below..


U5s-U11sU5s-U11s


So the 1st block of training for this age group would look something similar to this:-

So the 1st block of training for this age group would look something similar to this:-
 
 http://www.f-marc.com/downloads/posters_generic/english.pdf  (opens in a new window)

Under 12s-14s

Now the more classical forms of Strength & Conditioning can start to be added to the programme, a lot of the underlying work and the functional movement qualities should be in place.

All the below aspects have to fit in the overall plan.



How Can the Coach Help?
Be aware of your players demands and needs at this stage of development. Your players will either be pre pubescent or pubescent. This meaning they will be going through massive changes in bodily function. You will notice this by increased muscle mass, facial hair and definition in muscle. These players are generally those who perform the best in running tests and body weight exercise.

*Attempt to eliminate physical dominance in training and place emphasis on technical development.

*Be patient with late developers, THEY WILL CATCH UP!

*Can you adjust training to accommodate body sizes, moving the more developed players up and age group and the less developed down an age group, but make sure you explain your reasons for this to parent and player.

*Monitor your training, do not overcook it, keep loads and intensity to a level in which the players are able to perform consistently well in.

*The main focus of fitness development at this age group is motor co-ordination, this means getting all technical aspects of any work done to a satisfactory level. Co-ordination drills with and without the ball will be ideal.

So the 1st block of Strength & Conditioning training for this age group would look something similar to this:-



With all these exercises still being bodyweight only, even the Olympic based lifts are only with a dowel (broomstick) so they are unloaded, we are concerned with motor programming and mobility gains with neuromuscular understanding of the positions the body has to achieve for future increases in exercise load and difficulty of exercise.

Under 15s-18s


How Can the Coach Help?

*Help educate players on hydration, nutrition, match preparation, recovery between training and games, living as a 24/7 footballer.

*Now is the time where a judgment call has to be made as this is the appropriate time for the Strength & Conditioning side to start loading certain exercises.

*Within this age frame periodised training blocks have to be in place to create a long term plan to get the best results possible.

*This age group has to prioritise STRENGTH gains, whilst still staying mobile.

*There could be up to 40 blocks over this period of time. 1 block = 4-6 week

So the 1st block of training for this age group would look something similar to this:-



This age group has to prioritise STRENGTH gains, whilst still staying mobile

Under 21s


How Can the Coach Help?

*Help educate players on hydration, nutrition, match preparation, recovery between training and games, living as a 24/7

*Within this age frame periodised training blocks have to be in place to create a long term plan to get the best results possible.

*This age group has to prioritise converting the strength into POWER gains, which will transfer on to the field of play.


So the 1st block of training for this age group would look something similar to this:-



At this stage exercises will be complexed/contrasted and we will be looking for PAP effect and other intricate training methods.

Throughout the different phases and age specific programme remember the movement patterns and technique quality have to be the number 1 goal.

If the player or coach gets side tracked and tries to perform loaded exercises without perfect form then detrimental after affects are almost inevitable.

Remember that functional movement patterns underpins and creates the foundation for functional performance then functional skill, this is the case in all sports, not just soccer.

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