Strength Introduction: The Big 4 Movements

This is the second instalment in a three-part series covering the proper introduction of strength training for young athletes new to the weight room.

As we discussed in the last article what separates a good introductory program from a bad one is twofold…

  • Good programs focus on proper movement and muscle firing patterns before they introduce weight.
  • Proper strength implementation is done in a systematic fashion that takes into account all three phases of strength development – Isometric, Eccentric, and Concentric.

In this article, we will cover the four areas a young athlete needs to focus on in order to set themselves up for long term success in the weight room.  As with every quality strength and conditioning program the focus needs to be on movements, not muscles.

The way I build up young athletes is by incorporating 1-2 lifts from each movement classification per training session. This allows for a comprehensive approach that will allow the athletes body to accumulate to the demand.

The four movement classifications are: Hinge, Squat, Push, and Pull.

By following these four movements you ensure that you have a well-rounded total body training program.  Which allows for a young athlete to train in an athletic manor and remove the majority of movements that do not focus on building a foundation of relative strength and neuromuscular control.

Below is a breakdown of each of the four movement classifications and the four training progressions I use with my young athletes.

Hinge – this movement is a loading of the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and low back) and refers to a ‘hip dominate’ exercise.  All athletes need to have strong and explosive hips.  This is the foundation of all Olympic based movements as well as jumping and sprinting. The Hinge should be the focal point of all strength training programs for athletes of any age.

  • Phase 1: PVC RDL
  • Phase 2: Kettlebell Deadlift and RDL
  • Phase 3: Kettlebell Swing
  • Phase 4: Trap Bar Deadlift

Squat – this movement is an active loading of the hip, knees, and ankles. The squat is best building block for lower body strength and power. This incorporates all the muscles of the lower body and is a great movement to build mobility and stability in the major joints of the lower body. Similar to the Hinge, the Squat should be a major focus of all strength training programs.

  • Phase 1: Squat Iso Hold
  • Phase 2: Bodyweight Squat
  • Phase 3: Goblet Squat
  • Phase 4: Barbell Front Squat

Push – the Push movements are any upper body movement that moves the load away from the mid-section. Primary muscles are the deltoids, chest, and triceps.  This teaches the athletes how to forcefully extend their arms which is the foundation of overhead pressing (push press, jerk, and military press) as well as horizontal pressing (bench press).

  • Phase 1: Bodyweight Push-Up
  • Phase 2: Push Up Iso Hold
  • Phase 3: Eccentric Push-Up
  • Phase 4: Dumbbell Bench Press

Pull – this movement category is the primary builder of relative strength in the upper body.  Pull movements refer to the movement of load towards the mid-section. When it comes to young athletes and upper body training the ratio of reps need to favor pull movements over push movements 2:1.

  • Phase 1: Pull-Up Iso-Hold
  • Phase 2: Eccentric Pull-Up
  • Phase 3: Suspended Rows
  • Phase 4: Full Pull-Up

So, if you are building a strength program for young athletes you will want to choose 1-2 movements from each category and coach it with extreme detail. The key is to be patient and put in the work required to give these athletes the best foundation possible.

If, as coaches, we take the time to do this the right way we will guarantee that our athletes are better off because of it.

In our final installment of this three-part series I will lay out what a full training program should look like for introductory athletes.

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