The importance of adding strength training to the normal sports training programme has long been recognised as vital for the adult athlete/player. Sprinters and jump event athletes for example are known to use various types of strength training activities to improve speed and jumping ability. But the field and court player needs speed and explosive power just as much as the sprinter. So it is natural that adult players are using weight training in the programmes. But should the pre-pubertal athlete or player turn to strength training.
The purpose of a very interesting study by Ferrete et al (2013) was to examine the effects of a 26-week on-field combined strength and high-intensity training on physical performance capacity among pre-pubertal soccer players who were undertaking a competitive phase of training. the group were divided into 2 groups – a training group (TG) were the experimental group and a control group (C). Both groups performed an identical soccer training programme, while the TG group also performed combined strength and high-intensity training before the soccer specific training.
The researchers reported that there were no significant differences between the groups in any of the variables tested at baseline. But upon completion of the 26 weeks of the experiment significant improvements were found in Counter Movement Jump (6.72%), Yo-Yo intermittent Endurance Test (49.57%), and Flexibility (7.26%) variables for the TG group. Conversely, significant decreases were noted for the CMJ (-10.82%) and flexibility (-13.09%) variables in C group. A significant negative correlation was found between 15m sprint time and CMJ (r=-0.77) and Yo-YoIE (r=-0.77) in the TG group.
The researchers concluded that specific combined strength and high-intensity training in prepubertal soccer players for 26 weeks produced a positive effect on performance qualities highly specific to soccer. Therefore, they proposed modifications to current training methodology for pre-pubertal soccer players to include strength and high-intensity training for athlete preparation in this sport.
The coach working with young players and athletes should realise that the strength work used in this research included on-field strength work as opposed to work in the gym or weight training room.
Reference: Ferrete C, Requena B, Suarez-Arrones L, Sáez de Villarreal E. (2013) Effect of strength and high-intensity training on jumping, sprinting and intermittent endurance performance in prepubertal soccer players. J. Strength Cond. Res.