Why Isometric Strength Exercises Are Perfect for Very Young Athletes

Training with isometric holds has been shown to increase motor unit recruitment, firing rate and overall body control and stability.

Strength training for young athletes is a very popular subject right now.

Teaching an athlete the importance and value of strength training from a young age can lead to tremendous benefits. It can help them build a great base of not only physical qualities such as motor coordination, proper lifting technique and overall preparedness for their sport, but also a rise in their self-confidence and how they see themselves on and off the field.

If an athlete is old enough to play organized sports, they are old enough to participate in a strength training program that is structured appropriately for their maturity and needs. The word "appropriate" is key. Simple training will always be more efficient for very young athletes. Using the athlete's own body weight as their resistance is a great place to start. Basic movements such as Squats, Push-Ups and Lunges can have great carryover to sports performance as these are all foundational movements that athletes should master.

But once such basic movements are mastered, it can be difficult to continue to progress and intensify training to continue to challenge these young athletes without increasing their risk of potential injury. We are dealing with young athletes, and adding more weight is rarely the best option. Including some isometric holds into the program can be an easy and effective way to solve this issue.

Training with isometric holds has been shown to increase motor unit recruitment, firing rate and overall body control and stability. They're especially a great option for younger athletes. Isometric holds are challenging yet safe, require little to no equipment and can easily be made fun! Make athletes compete against one another to see who can hold positions the longest and you turn a stagnant movement into something the kids will fight for to win.

Best Isometric Holds For Young Athletes

Below are some examples of different isometric holds you can include in your youth athlete's strength training program. Typically these isometric holds are performed 3-4 sets for 30-60 seconds, but feel free to modify to what is most appropriate for your athlete and program.

1. Reverse Hyper Iso Hold

Important notes for the Reverse Hyper Iso Hold:

  • Chest pulled up off hyper machine, upper back braced
  • Legs straight, squeezed together at hip height
  • Arching low back and squeezing glutes tight
  • Feet together, flexed up towards face

If you do not have access to a reverse hyper machine, you can just as easily set up on a glute ham raise or an incline bench, as shown here:

When setting up on an incline bench, make sure to have a pad set on the top of bench to ensure the athlete has some support. The athlete will not have a handle to grasp, like on the reverse hyper machine, so they will lay their forearms flat on bench and grasp the bench with their hands. The form is the same for the movement regardless of the implement used.

2. Inverted Row Iso Hold

Important notes:

  • Keep body as neutral as possible, straight line from ankle to head.
  • Squeeze upper back during hold.
  • Brace trunk, spine and glutes.
  • Can use multiple hand positions; overhand, underhand, or use barbell if suspension straps not available.

3. Lying Y Iso Hold

Important notes:

  • Head neutral, thumbs up, picking chest straight up off ground
  • Squeeze upper back during hold.

4. Glute Bridge Iso Hold

Important notes:

  • Have the heels driven into the ground pushing hips up.
  • Back flat on ground for support
  • Can use multiple feet positions; wide, close, heels flat, up, etc.

5. Kneeling Hip Extension Iso Hold

Important notes:

  • Keep the shoulders and hips square to ground.
  • Keep the trunk and spine braced.
  • Extended leg locked out, held at hip height with foot flexed up.
  • To intensify movement add a partner to push down lightly on athletes heels or add an resistance band.
  • Be sure to perform an equal number of reps on both sides.