There has been a growing scientific interest in youth training and fitness development in recent years.  The concept of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) for sports has grown in popularity.  These models can be used to structure training programmes.   Talented young athletes and non sporty children will benefit from LTAD research.  The LTAD concept models the complete progressive development of a child’s motor skills.   It can therefore play an important role in providing young people with positive attitudes towards physical activity and fitness training.  Furthermore, young people can develop the confidence to engage in a variety of sporting activities at any level of performance.

This blog builds upon the basic concepts introduced in Part One, which put forward Youth Physical Development Model proposed by Lloyd & Oliver (2012).  Several deficiencies have been identified in early models.  This information can be used by sports coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and parents.


Early deficiencies for models of youth training

  • Age based stages of development do not take account for differences in rates of maturity.  It is possible for an early maturing child to reach puberty 1.5 – 2 chronological years ahead of a late maturing child.  Differences in growth rate irrespective of chronological age have implications for youth training and the fitness of young athletes.
  • Early models of youth development suggest ‘windows of opportunity’.   Training later in life will still benefit performance.
  • Early models of LTAD do not address muscular hypertrophy, agility and power development, all of which are important components of a young athlete’s development.


Youth Physical Development Model (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012)


Young athletes will benefit from engaging in all aspects of physical conditioning and athletic development at all stages of the model.  However, as athletes pass through puberty their training age, experience and expertise will develop.  This calls for the level of emphasis placed upon specific areas of fitness training and conditioning to evolve.  For example, Functional Movement Skills are important to elite athletes.  Specific skill development during warm up is still necessary.   Conversely, prepubescent children will have a greater emphasis upon Functional Movement Skills.  Youth athletes therefore can have whole sessions designed to develop them.

Resistance training programmes do benefit prebubescent athletes.  Reduce the incidence of injury in youth athletes by completing an evidence based strength programme.   Youth strength training can also benefit performance of motor skills.

Despite the lack of research evidence Lloyd & Oliver present a case for developing basic agility patterns and skills in early and middle childhood.  They argue that adding this to youth training programmes can take advantage of improvements in strength and speed.  The plasticity of the neuromuscular system also supports this.

Whilst flexibility should feature in all stages of an athletes development, it is proposed that flexibility development be emphasised in the prepubescent athlete due to structural changes that occur during puberty.


Practical Considerations for Sports Coaches of Youth Athletes

  • Consider monitoring height, and possibly the height and weight of your young athletes if appropriate, and with permission. This will enable you to identify when Peak Height Velocity occurs, and possibly Peak Weight Velocity.  Individualise the programmes of young athlete using biological age information.  Several growth prediction calculators are available online.
  • Be aware of adolescent awkwardness and bring youth training back to basics at these times.  Rapid changes in limb lengths can adversely affect a young persons’ functional and sports specific movement skills.  Bring training back to basics again for them and allow them to re-develop these skills.
  • Consider the training age of your athlete as well as their chronological and biological age. Older athletes that have limited training history will need a ‘catch up’ period.  Doing this will ensure that their functional movement skills are in place before focusing upon sports specific development.  Do not assume that their size and biological maturity reflects their training capability.

NK Fitness offer youth fitness training for young athletes who are high performers in sport.  We also offer sessions aimed at young people who would simply like to improve their physical activity level and general health and fitness.  Please get in touch via our contact page for further information.