PT on the Net Research

Developing Essential Movement Patterns for Youth Athletes

Training youth athletes is emerging as a possible big market in fitness and sports training. Youth training is exploding because of all the “non-traditional” sports in which kids and adolescents are participating in, such as snowboarding, BMX, skateboarding, and surfing, just to mention a few. Development of correct movement patterns is important when training youth athletes. Fundamental movement skills (FMS) should be present in any program. Learn the proper training protocols for young athletes relating to strength, conditioning, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe how there is a market to train youth athletes for “non-traditional” sports.
  2. Explain the fundamental movement skills for youth athletes.

Emergence of Youth Sports

In spite of negative news about the health and fitness of kids, millions of children and adolescents are involved in organized sports (Kelley and Carchia, 2013). Sports and Fitness Industry Association ( indicate in 2011 there were 21.5 million children and adolescents who played organized sports in America. Generation Z’ers (6 – 14 years) prefer team and outdoor sports, with more than half participating in these types of activities.

There is demand for personal trainers who specialize in training youth athletes. Moreover, many parents are willing to pay substantial fees for trainers specializing in training youth athletes. There is a market for training for traditional sports, such as soccer, swimming, cycling, field hockey, rugby, badminton and volleyball. However, there is a growing market to train athletes who participate in “non-traditional” sports. Trainers who think “outside the box” can market themselves to athletes who want to participate and be successful in sports, such as BMX Bike Riding, Skate boarding, Downhill Mountain Biking, Aerial & Mogul Snow Skiing, Surfing, Snowmobiling, Motorcycling, and Motocross.

Youth Physical Development Model: Fundamental Movement Skills

Development of correct movement patterns in a safe and fun environment is important for performance of complex sports movements later in development (Rhodri and Oliver, 2012.). Fundamental movement skills (FMS) should be present in any strength and conditioning program, for any athlete, of any age. For example, an inexperienced 7-year-old boy or girl can be taught to perform a series of FMS developmental exercises. For an elite, 21-year-old athlete, a dynamic warm-up can be integrated with FMS maintenance exercises.

Fundamental movement skills can include the following: balance skills, such as movements where the body remains in place, but moves around its horizontal and vertical axes, locomotor skills (running, jumping, hopping, leaping, skipping, and galloping), ball skills (catching, throwing, kicking, and striking), non-locomotor skills (rolling, balancing, sliding, and dodging), and object control skills (bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking, and striking).

Strength Development

Strength development is a combination of muscular, neural, and mechanical factors. Neural plasticity ability of the brain (ability to change throughout life) means that strength development could be targeted during childhood and after the adolescent growth spurt. Prepubertal children and adolescents can improve strength through neural adaptations.


An emphasis on hypertrophy training can be when athletes are approximately 14 years old for males and 12 years for female athletes. Hypertrophy can be the focus of training typically after peak height velocity (the period of time in which an adolescent experiences his or her fastest growth in stature). Testosterone and human growth hormone increase with the adolescent growth spurt, which contributes to the increase in muscle size. Before adolescence, the training focus can be on strength development. After the adolescent growth spurt, there can be a focus on strength and hypertrophy training.


Power is essential for success in almost all sports. Vertical jump height is an indirect measure of muscular power. Power development can start at the onset of adolescence and continues throughout adulthood.

Children and adolescents can make training-induced improvements in muscle power.

Flexibility and Mobility

Sands (2002) indicates between the ages of 5 – 11 years is a critical period of development for flexibility. Boys have less trunk flexion (sit and reach) between 9 and 12 years. Girls start to improve their flexibility beginning at 11 years of age (Branta, Haubenstricker, Seefeldt, 1984). What kind of flexibility training is best and most enjoyed by youth athletes? Static stretching can be boring. A combination of static and “pulsing static stretching” may be well tolerated by younger athletes. Joint range of motion may be the most enjoyable for younger athletes. Flexibility is also sport dependant, meaning that different sports have different flexibility requirements.

Mobility is defined as controlled voluntary movement through an entire functional range of motion ( Prepubescence is an ideal opportunity to develop mobility, and adolescents and adults can focus on maintenance of mobility, such as during a warm-up.


More attention on should be paid to endurance and metabolic conditioning as a youth athlete approaches adulthood. Endurance in youth athletes should not be the main focus of training. One of the reasons for this is because high levels of endurance are not required in the majority of sports. Endurance training is inadvertently the most commonly developed fitness component because it is safer for teachers than instructing resistance training. Baquet, et al. (2010) suggest continuous running is boring for kids, and that personal trainers consider a variety of training programs for children.


Agility is the most under-researched component of fitness in pediatric exercise science. It is also the most misunderstood and improperly trained component of fitness. Agility is defined as a rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus ( Therefore, agility in sports is when an athlete has a ball or puck (football, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, etc), is moving at a high rate of speed, and has to make a movement around an opponent who is also moving fast. As such, training athletes with agility ladders or making fast movements around stationary cones is not agility, but rather changes of direction. Change of direction may develop some agility, coordination, and perhaps dynamic strength, but it does not improve an athletes’ ability to have a rapid, whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus. Agility training must have decision making with fast, whole body, movements. Examples of pure agility training can be partner drills, where one athlete must make a move left or right, then forward, to go around the partner who is trying to prevent or impede the movement. Another example is a 4-person triangle agility drill, where one athlete is moving and reacting to 3 other athletes. The “stationary” athletes are in a triangle, and one has an object. When he/she drops the object on the ground, the “agility” athlete must react by picking it up and hand it back to the “stationary” athlete, then turn around and high five one of the other two “stationary” athletes who puts one hand up, alternating left and right hands.


Baquet G , et al., (2010) Continuous vs. interval aerobic training in 8- to 11-year-old children. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(5):1381-1388

Branta, C, Haubenstricker, J., And Seefeldt, V. (1984) Age changes in motor skills during childhood and adolescents. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: 12(1): 467-520

Giles, G., What Is mobility training and do I need to be doing it? http://www.Atlasfitnessdc.Com/Mobility-Training-Need, Retrieved December 28, 2018.

Kelley, B. and Carchia, C. (2013), “Hey Data, Data, Swing,”, Retrieved December 28, 2018.

Sands, W.A. Physiology. (2002) In: Scientific Aspects of Women's Gymnastics. Sands, W.A., Caine, D.J., Borms, J: Eds. Basel, Switzerland: Karger, pp. 128–161.

Sports and Fitness Industry Association,, Retrieved December 27, 2018.

Rhodri, L. and Oliver, J.L. (2012) The Youth Physical Development Model: A New Approach to Long-Term Athletic Development, Strength and Conditioning Journal, 34(3), 61–72.

Walker, O. Agility,, Retrieved December 30, 2018