Muscle Strengthening for Children – Improving Health & Performance

Earlier this year, Professor Avery Faigenbaum (world leader on youth resistance training) presented a seminar in the UK. Although I was not able to attend I have just read the overview in the latest UKSCA Professional Strength & Conditioning Journal (Issue 28, April 2013) and i thought it was important to share some of these issues to the wider community of coaches, teachers and parents.

The article summarises the importance of muscle strengthening for children, which  I believe many people are still afraid of the term muscle strengthening and would not no where to start in developing this vital quality in children. There are some essential reasons for developing strength in children, which include:

  • Injury Prevention – If children don’t develop movement and strength competencies before starting in sport, then injuries are likely.
  • Physical Inactivity – Today’s lack of physical activity in children (instead grabbing for the TV remote or iPad) leads to obesity. Obesity then leads to diseases such as Type II diabetes. Increasing muscle strength increases motor competence therefore increasing ability to undertake physical activity and increase fitness levels.

How important are educational skills such as reading, readingand numeracy? Well, children learning how to move is just as important and developing muscular strength must be part of this and has been shown to improve running, jumping and throwing performance. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity (including activities to strengthen muscle and bone) daily in children.

The lack of strength and movement is also a problem in many active children, with too much time spent on sport specific skills than general movement and strength capabilities. Far too often have I seen players enter an academy system (at 15-16 years of age) that cannot run, jump or squat correctly. It is essential we get these basic fundamentals in place in children from an early age to reduce injuries, improve sports performance and ultimately improve health of the nation.

The LTAD model suggests a number of steps. Children aged 0-5 should be actively playing – learning how to control there own body weight in playful activities (do we see children on the climbing frame at the local park anymore?). Between the ages of 6-12 years children shown then be learning how to run and jump correctly and performing body weight strength exercises and progressing these to adding light resistance such as medicine balls. Then introducing weight lifting technique is the next step. These are based around 7 types of movements of squat, lunge, push, pull, brace, rotate and hinge recommended by Kelvin Giles of movement dynamics.

Faigenbaum summarises perfectly with a simple formula, muscle strength leads to motor skills leads to physical activity leads to lifetime fitness. If your a coach, teacher or parent it is important you understand this and try and start incorporating these activities into the daily life’s of your children. This is essential for both the overall health and sporting performance of our country in the future .If you want more information or ideas on how you might start to implement this then please feel free to contact me at


High Intensity Circuit Session 2

Following last weeks Blog (‘High Intensity Circuit Training – Example Session’) and the positive feedback i’ve received I have decided to post two more high intensity circuit training sessions for you. This will give you 3 quality, full body, high intensity circuit sessions for you to perform each week – for FREE!

Todays Blog gives you session 2. Remember, the session comprises of 10 exercises that target all areas of the body and you perform one exercise after the other. The aim is to perform the circuit in as quick a time as possible but with great form and technique. Dependant upon your level and experience you can rest in between each exercise or even rest during an exercise if needed. Once you have completed the circuit you rest for 3 minutes and then repeat again twice for a total of 3 circuits. The exercises, reps and loads (you can choose your loads dependant on your level and how tough a session you want) are described below with a video of each exercise shown at the end of this post for if you are unsure of any exercise.

Session 2 is

1. Barbell Squat – 10 reps – Minimum of 40kg
2. DB Pullover – 12 reps – Minimum 15kg
3. Hang Clean to Press – 10 reps – Minimum of 30kg
4. Box Jumps – 10 reps – Higher the box the better
5. Push Up to Side Plank – 8 reps each side
6. Plate Around the Worlds – 10 reps each side – Minimum 10kg
7. Barbell Rotations – 10 reps each side – Minimum Bar
8. Inverted Row – 12 reps – Bodyweight
9. Floor Wipers – 6 reps each side – Barbell
10. Run or Row – Treadmill / Field / Rower – 500m or 2 minutes

Session 2 is a bit tougher than session 1 but is a great way to develop muscle and burn fat. Why don’t you give it a go and post your comments or circuit times on twitter or facebook.

Look out for session 3 next week


1. Barbell Squat

2. DB Pullover

3. Hang Clean to Press

4. Box Jumps

5. Push Up to Side Plank

6. Plate Around the Worlds

7. Barbell Rotations

8. Inverted Row

9. Floor Wipers



The Inverted Row – Progressions and Alternatives

The Inverted Row is an exercise I use regularly in my Strength & Conditioning and Youth Athletic Development sessions. The Inverted Row is a great exercise for developing horizontal pulling strength and developing the upper back muscles (lower/mid trapezius, rhomboids, lat dorsi, posterior deltoid). The Inverted Row is also a good exercise to use in progressing to the chin / pull up. Below are six varieties of the Inverted Row for you to start to include in your training programs.

1. Inverted Row with Knees Bent – This is the easiest variation of the Inverted Row. Make sure the bar is at a fixed height that allows full extension of the arms and grasp the bar with a overhand grip. Place the feet on the floor so there is an approximate 90 degree bend at the knees and keep the body straight throughout pulling the chest to the bar.


2. Inverted Row with Legs Straight – This exercise progresses on from the knees bent variation as the distance of the lever (the feet) is increased meaning the load is greater to pull. The body should be straight throughout with the chest pulled to the bar with full extension of the arms on each rep.

3. Single Leg Inverted Row – This exercise is similar to the straight leg variation except one foot is lifted from the floor. This results in the body being in single leg bridge position and therefore utilises the glute and hamstring of the supporting leg. This means your getting more bang for your buck and working pulling strength with glute activation.


4. Inverted Row with Feet Up - This exercise involves raising the feet by placing them on a box or bench. This increases the load of the body and makes the exercise more difficult. Form should be maintained as described in the previous variations.


5. Loaded Inverted Row – This is the same as in number 4 but added weight is included to increase the difficulty of the exercise. A plate can be placed on the stomach (don’t place it on the chest as this limits the range of movement of the exercise when the plate hits the bar) or a weighted vest can be used.


6. Inverted Row with Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl – An elevated inverted row can be performed on a swiss ball that then requires more control. This can be progressed to include an inverted row followed by a swiss ball hamstring curl after each rep. This again incorporates the pulling action with the recruitment of the hamstring and glute muscles. This exercise is a great functional full body exercise.


So there you go, 6 Inverted Row exercise progressions to start using in your training. Remember, pulling actions should form a major part of your weekly resistance sessions (see developing a balanced upper body program) so start using the Inverted Row now. As always feel free to Contact Us if you want further information or have any questions.


Strongman Training for Improving Performance

Below is an interesting article from strength & conditioning coach Kevin Shattock (Podium Performance). The article discusses the use of traditional strongman type training for improving fitness and sports performance. Have a read and see if you think strongman type training might be beneficial to you. If it is then contact KT Conditioning to see how we can implement this within your training programs.

There has recently been an increase in the popularity of using strongman training to improve fitness and sporting performance. Traditionally, strength training programs have been based on power lifting and weightlifting exercises and variations. However, many of these exercises, when the proper technique is mastered, require the body or bar to travel through specific bar paths, which limits the variation of a training stimulus to some degree. In addition, these exercises require force production primarily in a vertical direction, whereas most sports require horizontal force development and movement in all 3 planes. To train athletes using the principle of training specificity, other methods of strength training should be explored.
Strongman implements can provide a novel training stimulus and be integrated into a strength and conditioning program with the benefits of increased muscular hypertrophy (size), strength endurance, a possible increase in sport-specific strength and an increased enjoyment of training. Common strongman implements used in training include tractor tyres, sandbags, water-filled kegs, farmers walk, pushing/pulling sleds and steel logs. By following general weight training safety recommendations, such as lifting with good lifting mechanics and loading using the principle of progressive overload, the use of strongman implements can be performed successfully with low risk with athletes of all ages and strength/skill levels.

General Physical Preparation
In a periodised training program, physical training is broken down into 2  parts - General preparation training (GPP) and Sport-specific performance training (SSP). Both of these training parts have individual functions in the training program of an athlete during the preparatory phase of training.

During the preparatory phase, GPP initiates the training and focuses on building a solid physiological foundation, including strength, speed, flexibility, balance, and increasing work capacity for the intense training to follow. The use of strongman implements, along with more traditional strength training equipment, can be used to meet these goals. Some strength and conditioning professionals seem to avoid strongman implement training because of the lack of sport specific movement patterns.  I believe that many strongman exercises do have sport-specific movement patterns. Additionally, because the GPP should not focus on sport-specific movements but total body physical training, implementation of these types of exercises into a training program is recommended for many strength / power sports during this phase in the program. Several different sports such as american football, rugby and basketball have reported using strongman implements and are likely to see benefits from their use.

During the GPP phase, high volumes of training at moderate intensities are typically recommended. A log clean and press, where the log is cleaned at each rep, is a great tool for increasing strength endurance of the entire body. The nature of carrying events works very well as a means of increasing strength endurance and anaerobic energy system endurance. Carrying farmers walk implements, water-filled kegs, or pushing/pulling sleds are examples of exercises that fit into this category. These exercises are normally done for prescribed distances.

Progression is accomplished by increasing the distance the object is carried or the weight of the object and will lead to increases in strength endurance. Variation of rest periods can also be used to increase anaerobic work capacity. Exercises using strongman implements will also provide a great stimulus for hypertrophy, another purpose of the GPP, because of the large amount of time under tension. When performing a carrying exercise, such as a keg carry or farmers walks, the arms, trapezius and upper back musculature must generate a large amount of tension to maintain positioning of the keg and sustain that tension throughout the exercise. The core musculature is forced to stabilize the body, while the legs produce force to rapidly move with the implement.

It has been demonstrated that exercises incorporating large musculature, such as that of strongman exercises, produce the greatest increases in anabolic hormones, leading to increases in muscular hypertrophy. Using strongman implements as a means of increasing maximal strength does have limitations. The small incremental increases in weight necessary to increase maximal strength are difficult to achieve with most implements.  Adding weight to implements, such as atlas stones, kegs, or tyres, can often prove difficult. Because of this, increasing maximal strength with low reps, such as 1–3 reps, is best left for more common free weight exercises done in a weight room, rather than attempting lifts of maximally loaded strongman implements. Some athletes also may not have the strength necessary to lift heavy implements, such as a 200kg tyre or 100kg keg. In cases such as this, coaches can find additional implements of a lighter weight or use partners to lift heavy implements such as a large tyre.

The use of strongman implements may be better used when training to increase basic strength, where 4–8 reps of an exercise are performed. This allows for a broader range of weight that can be used on an exercise and therefore a better progression for that exercise. For example, when an athlete is able to perform 7–8 reps in an exercise, the weight can then be increased to a load where the athlete will be able to perform 4–5 reps and then work to be able to perform 7–8 reps at the new weight. Gains made in basic strength using this repetition range will also contribute to overall gains made in maximal strength by the athlete.

Sport Specific Performance Training
The integration of strongman implements also works well in the middle to late pre season when training must become more sport specific. The SSP is based on the foundation established during the GPP and serves as a transition to the competitive phase of the training year. Activities during the SSP should target the physiological adaptations that are specific to the sport being trained for, including movement specificity and energy system specificity. Changes in the program variables (sets, reps, rest time) can make this form of training more sport specific.
The movements of many different strongman exercises closely replicate movements in sports. Exercises using strongman implements will have the greatest transfer to contact sports, such as rugby. The sequential extension of the hip, knee, and ankle (known as triple extension) is a movement necessary to be performed explosively for many sport movements and is the key to athletic power. Many strongman events, such as loading atlas stones, tyre flips and log clean and jerk, involve the powerful triple extension along with a heavy emphasis on core stability. Carrying exercises, such as sandbag or keg carries and farmers walk, train the isometric holding strength and endurance that is needed in sports such as MMA, judo, wrestling. In pressing exercises, the neutral grip handles of a steel log more closely replicate hand positions commonly used in sports, compared with the pronated grip of a barbell. All these exercises can be manipulated to be performed for sport-specific periods or number of reps.

Using strongman implements is a good way of incorporating strength and balance during lateral movement, a quality needed in many sports. Conventional weight training exercises for lateral movement are often limited to lateral lunge variations and can be difficult to work with a heavy load on these exercises. Lateral walking can be done with a heavy sandbag on one or both shoulders or held overhead, farmers walk implements, kegs, or a bar held in front of the body in the Zercher position. Using strongman implements to train lateral movement increases the number of exercises available for use, increasing the number of different stresses placed on the body and the overall stress because of the greater load being used.

One of the areas that strongman training can have its biggest impact is in conditioning. As mentioned before, training must become more specific to the sport during the SSP period. Using strongman implements will have the greatest effect on the phosphagen and glycolytic energy systems. Explosive repeated movements that require high levels of power are required by many team sports. Comprehensive training for sport can be accomplished using exercises that develop the prime movers of the movements used in the specific sport, matching the amplitude and direction of the movement, joint angles used, the rate and timing of force production and the dominant energy systems used. Many times only the dominant energy systems are taken into consideration when designing conditioning programs, with running and agility type drills being the most commonly used methods.

The other factors determining training specificity are then left for strength training exercises. Strongman exercises can be integrated into a conditioning program to make it more complete for the development of sport-specific energy systems while using sport-specific movements simultaneously. Contact sports require numerous repeated movements at different joint angles, with a range of force needs and rates of force production during the course of a game. Not accounting for these factors in an athletes’ conditioning regimen can be a missed opportunity for an increased performance.

Using strongman implements will force an athlete to move with a heavy weight, increasing the core stabilization needs as described earlier and may create a more sport-specific strength.  Using strongman implements for conditioning purposes in the late pre season will provide a stimulus for hypertrophy at a period in the training program when there typically is an overall reduction in volume and an increase in intensity of resistance training with the primary focus being increasing power and/or speed.

Strongman exercises are very demanding on the body and use many of the same prime movers as common weight room exercises, so careful planning and periodisation is essential for success.  With proper planning, strongman exercises can fit into any type of periodisation scheme. Many strongman exercises can be manipulated to match the goals of a specific training phase whether it is hypertrophy/strength endurance, strength, or power. Using the log press as an example, a log clean and press for reps can be used in the hypertrophy/strength endurance phase, a strict overhead press with the log in the strength phase, and a log push jerk in the power phase.

Strongman exercises can also be used year round as a stimulus for strength endurance and hypertrophy. This can be done by having a weekly workout with all strongman implements or using one strongman exercise as a ‘‘finisher’’ at the end of a workout. Examples of finishers include tyre flips for distance, pushing/pulling sled for distance, or any carrying exercise done for distance. When using strongman exercises in this manner as the primary stimulus for strength endurance, it is important that much of the work performed in the weight room is focused on increasing maximal strength and power. As mentioned previously, many strongman exercises do not work well for maximal strength purposes, so maximal strength training should be done in the weight room with barbell and dumbbell exercises. Power training can be done with strongman implements using light loads performed at a fast tempo.

Strongman implements are an effective tool to be incorporated into an overall training program to increase the specific parameters of strength, power and strength endurance to enhance fitness and sport performance. Strongman implements also present many unique challenges that cannot be obtained with more common exercises because of their odd shapes and unbalanced nature and are sport specific to contact sports.  Athletes following such a program enjoy the challenge and variety of such workouts, which may increase the adherence to the programs.

KT Conditioning BLOG Review – Part 2

Following Part 1 of my review of BLOGs, please see Part 2 below. Keep a look out for my future BLOGs and please feel free to leave any requests or ideas for future BLOGs. 

Fitness Testing with KT Conditioning - Review of our fitness testing service

Research Overview – The ABCs of Physical Activity for Health - The importance of Physical activity for health

The Basics of Nutrition – Food Nutrients - Info on Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat

WheyHey!! A Protein Ice Cream - A tasty and nutritious snack

RAMP Up Your Warm Ups - Structuring your warm ups with the RAMP protocol

Resistance Training for Youths - A review of the benefits of resistance training for children

Are Crunches Bad for You? - A review of a much debated topic

Adding Variety to the Shoulder Press – Part 1 (Barbell) - 6 barbell exercises to add to your training

Adding Variety to the Shoulder Press – Part 1 (Dumbbells) - 6 dumbbell exercises to add to your training

What is Functional Training? 

Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sport - A review of a book that i’ve got a chapter in!

Nike Vapor Strobe – Example Drills - Some hand eye co-ordination drills with a high tech set of goggles