Sports Training & Conditioning Zone!

Overtraining Young Athletes – Part II

by Brian Grasso YCS, CMT

In the previous article, I offered the suggestion that as trainers and coaches, we must take a deeper look at how we program for and train our athletes. I have made a career out of advocating for the use of more moderate training intensity's and volumes with young athletes, but this goes even further - it goes to the route of our programming abilities and skills. How much time do we truly spend in designing, monitoring and dynamically adjusting our training programs?

General overtraining syndromes impact both the central nervous system as well as the endocrine system. Given that the regulation of many hormones within the endocrine system serve to oversee and manage our stress levels, it is fair to imply that general overtraining could be considered a stress related issue.

Two types of general overtraining have been recognized:

1. Addisonic Overtraining

This version is related to Addison's disease and involves a reduction in the activity of the adrenal glands. This class of overtraining impacts the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system, but shows no striking signs at first. A general stagnation or dip in an athlete's performance (day-to-day) may be an indication or symptom.

2. Basedowic Overtraining

This version is connected to thyroid hyperactivity and named after Basedow's disease (also known as Graves' disease). This class of overtraining impacts the sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system and brings with it a host of identifiable symptoms (reduced reaction time, tire easily, poor motivation, appetite and sleep requirement changes).

I offer these two definitions in an attempt to encourage us all to take a closer look at our athletes when they walk in our doors. As I mentioned in last week's article, over the past number of training sessions, I could see subtle signs of both these overtraining conditions in the actions and reactions of my athletes. The Winter Holiday (complete with inappropriate nutrition and sleep deprivation) had combined with Final Exams Week (complete with undue amounts of psychological stress, inappropriate nutrition and sleep deprivation) leaving many of my young athletes looking and feeling lethargic. That isn't to say that notable extraneous circumstances alone (i.e. Winter Holiday coupled with Finals) will always account for a potential overtraining situation, in fact, very often it can be quite subtle:

• Broke up with girlfriend or boyfriend
• Received a 'C' in math
• Doesn't understand English homework
• Is freaked out about driver's test coming up in a few weeks

These all may seem like no big deal to you and I, but I again encourage you to think back to your high school days - some or all of these issues can be devastating to a teenager and feel insurmountable.

And these represent only psychological concerns… how about physical ones?

• Baseball coach makes your athlete stay after school to lift with the team 3X/week
• Football player has to test 1RM on bench, squat and clean in a month - decides to go to the school gym everyday to train for it (and then comes to you later on that afternoon for your session)
• In gym class, your athlete had to run 2 miles for the schools' standardized testing requirements (and then had to perform push-ups, sit-ups and rope climbing)
• The track and field coach makes your athlete go through a killer, vomit-filled workout full of running and sprinting because he wants his throwers to have a tough mentality

We all must look to generate close, special relationships with our athletes and be firm on the notion that the first thing we do when these kids walk into our training room is ask them how they are - take 5 minutes to learn about what's going on in there lives today. How do they feel? How was school? How are classes? Learn to understand who each of your athletes are as people and allow this to help guide your programming.

That brings me to a particular point on programming I have long stood for:

Coaching is an Art

With all the periodization dogma and 'scientific means' of designing programs out there, the truly special interaction of application and relationship seems to be a dying art in our industry. I certainly believe very much in the science of what we do, but there is so much more to coaching than just understanding principals, exercise selections and executions.

As Mel Siff wrote in 'Facts & Fallacies of Fitness':

"The organization of training is as much a matter of art, trial-and-error and intuition as it is of science"

Aside from talking with your athletes and actively watching their abilities day-to-day, here are some ideas to put into your training programs and routines:

• This article could have gone on forever about periodization dogmatic philosophy and the potential concerns of training athletes in only 6 - 8 week increments when a longer-term approach is so clearly warranted... I opted not to take it that way, but will say that in an effort to stay away from overtraining issues, as a practitioner, steer clear from selling your services to young athletes in short time frames. Understand that technical education alone can prolong a training routine beyond 6 weeks and that the expectations (either because they are assumed or because you are promoting them as such) are that this will be a high energy, butt-busting 6 weeks within which my vertical will increase 8" and my 40 will come down 2 tenths..............

• Regularly plot technique days into your athletes' training weeks. These by nature are low to moderate intensity/volume days and also serve to add to your athletes' repertoire of lifting skills. I use a lot of Hybrid lifts in my training routines during various parts of the year (I will be discussing Hybrid lifts in a future article). In short, Hybrid lifts are two or more exercises strung together in a sequence. Some examples could include:

- High Pull/Hang Clean/Push-Press
- Shrug/Hang Clean/Front Squat
- RDL/High Pull/Full Clean/Push-Press/Overhead Lunge

Hybrids are great at increasing base levels of fitness and adding technical merit to an athletes' lifts. In order to add to my Hybrids (or any other type of lift for that matter), once a week when my athletes come in, we will warm-up, learn a lift, practice it, cool-down and go home. To all you 'intensity-crazed' trainers out there, that sounds annoyingly easy I'm sure, but my athletes' get to actually learn something, concentrate on important biomotor abilities aside from just strength or power development (I didn't say that warm-up was easy), and keep there biological levels in check.
Here's what a technique day may look like for me:

Warm-Up (15 minutes)

Hip PNF (draw diagonal patterns across the sagittal midline of the body with accompanied hip internal/external rotations) - 3 sets, 10 reps/leg

Hip Circuits (ROM movements performed in sequence while on all-fours) - 3 sets/leg, 8 reps/exercise

Leg Raises (single-leg ROM activity while lying supine) - 3 sets/leg, 3 reps, hold each position for 5 seconds

Prone Stability (elbows & toes, lifting 1 leg off the ground and holding for 2 - 3) - 3 sets, 8 reps/leg

>> Continued on Page 2

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