Exercise, nutrition, and periodised fitness training for teenage athletes

  It is not unusual for adolescents to spend up to eight hours a day watching TV or hunching over various devices. In days past, children and teenagers could roam free around their neighbourhood on pushbikes'…

 

It is not unusual for adolescents to spend up to eight hours a day watching TV or hunching over various devices. In days past, children and teenagers could roam free around their neighbourhood on pushbikes and skateboards. Now, safety and time limitations mean that young people don’t often get the opportunity to be physically active for long.

On top of that, junk food and fast food taste good and are very convenient, and it’s no wonder that children and adults alike often choose these over more nutritious options. When these are eaten occasionally, they normally don’t cause any issues. However, when they become the norm, our bodies begin to suffer.

Adolescents, in particular, are prone to long-term damage from poor nutrition and a lack of exercise as muscles and bones don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need to develop properly.

At Elite Fitness Training, we believe that promoting the benefits of healthy lifestyle habits from an early age (instead of focusing on the negative effects of poor habits) will motivate our young participants to adopt them permanently. Some of these benefits include:

  • Maximising physical development and growth potential.
  • Boosting the flow of vitamins and minerals throughout the body – leading to healthier skin and hair, improved mental performance and concentration, and sustained energy levels.
  • Improving sleep and mood patterns.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Increasing independence, patience, and determination.
  • Increasing self-confidence through better posture, improved self-image, and pride in personal achievements.

We aim to foster a full spectrum of healthy habits in this age group via our nutrition programs and periodised fitness training programs.

What is periodised fitness training?

The term ‘periodised fitness training’ refers to progressive phases of training building up to an ultimate goal such as a team final or a personal target. You may have spotted the term in its other variations, like ‘periodised conditioning’, ‘sports periodisation’, or something similar.

Training programs can be divided into phases of a set number of sessions, days or weeks, with each phase focusing on a different aspect of fitness. For example, phases may focus on coordination, strength, or endurance. The idea is that each phase builds on the foundations of the ones before.

During each session or phase, participants push their body into a state of resistance without going overboard and overtraining. The phases run in cycles so that each fitness aspect is covered at regular intervals but at a slightly higher level each time. Periodised training programs follow a strategic plan as opposed to a series of unfocused workout sessions that lead nowhere.

How does periodised fitness training benefit young people?

Preadolescents and adolescents can benefit greatly from periodised training – providing they are given suitable activities and equipment and they are supervised by qualified fitness experts.

Our bodies can still be growing up to our early twenties, both physically and cognitively. Bones need extra care in their growth period, as long bones have growth plates at either end instead of fully-fused bones. These are made from soft tissue and can be very prone to injury. Muscle coordination and limb control also take years to develop properly. Gradually introducing periods of healthy muscle stress is a very effective way to regulate and improve overall physical development.

Youths wanting to enhance their fitness can’t simply follow a scaled-down version of an adult fitness program. Coaches need to structure their programs around the needs and existing abilities of their athletes. Everything from the number of exercise repetitions to the technique used for weight training needs to be carefully structured for developing bodies.

Research studies have proven that using periodised fitness training with young athletes creates many positive outcomes for them.

In one study entitled Periodization Training Focused on Technical-Tactical Ability in Young Soccer Players Positively Affects Biochemical Markers and Game Performance (Aquino et al 2016)1, a group of 15-year old boys followed a 22-week periodised training program that focused on technical-tactical ability. They were evaluated in 4 stages before and after competition.

The researchers concluded that all participants had:

“Reduced activity in biochemical markers related to muscle damage, as well as increases in in-game, high-intensity performance and the tactical performance of the study participants.”

Focusing for long spells on any area of fitness can place young bodies under too much stress and lead to the athlete becoming more prone to injury and illness. It is also important to allow adequate time to rest between sessions to aid recovery and boost ongoing energy levels.

Instead, taking an ‘all round’ approach and providing a mix of different types of fitness activities builds up a broad foundation of skills and strength without undue strain. This also helps avoid plateauing fitness levels while maintaining lots of interest and enjoyment.

The Australian Fitness Network resource ‘Key Considerations When Training Kids’, points out that we have different performance capabilities in different stages of our life. Therefore, it makes sense to provide appropriate forms of training accordingly.

“While children have lower aerobic and anaerobic training capacities than adults, they are suited to short bouts of high intensity intermittent exercise. It is advisable to combine this type of training with foundation motor skill development, such as hopping, jumping, skipping and throwing in a fun game-like play environment.” 2

How does Elite Fitness Institute use periodised fitness training in its programs?

Each training session usually focuses on one aspect of fitness; however, we sometimes use a combination of related aspects such as strength and endurance or speed and coordination.

The fitness areas we focus on include:

  • Body awareness
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Coordination
  • Flexibility
  • Agility
  • Endurance
  • Power
  • Reactivity

Our programs cover all aspects of fitness and are periodised to become more complex as participants advance through the program levels.

This approach provides variation and avoids overtraining in single areas of fitness. It also helps participants receive the maximum benefit from each session through appropriate levels of muscle stimulation.

See Our Fitness Programs page for more information.

Our programs are created according to the fitness levels of each group and will be new and different each cycle. We then customise and periodise the programs according to the group’s needs. We don’t increase the load of each cycle until the progress has been made, so some exercises and times may stay the same. This avoids the likelihood of pushing our young athletes beyond their abilities.

References

1 L. Q. T. Aquino, Rodrigo; Cruz Gonçalves, Luiz G.; Palucci Vieira, Luiz H.; Oliveira, Lucas P.; Alves, Guilherme F.; Pereira Santiago, Paulo R.; Puggina, Enrico F., 2016, ‘Periodization Training Focused on Technical-Tactical Ability in Young Soccer Players Positively Affects Biochemical Markers and Game Performance’, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, October 2016 – Volume 30 – Issue 10 – p 2723–2732, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001381 http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2016/10000/Periodization_Training_Focused_on.6.aspx

 

2 Sumich K, Australian Fitness Network, Key considerations when training kids, viewed 14 June 2017, http://home/urbayspp/public_html/elitefitnessinstitute.com.au.fitnessnetwork.com.au/resources-library/key-considerations-when-training-kids