Youth Athletic Training: phase III – Muscular Balance

Oct 5th, 2012

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Youth Athletic Training: phase III – Muscular Balance

Founder of Functional Muscle Fitness
Creator of The 12 Pack Abs Program

Continued from Youth Athletic Training: phase II – joint stabilization…

Continued from Youth Athletic Training: phase II – joint stabilization

The FMF Youth Athletic Training Model®, which can be applied to any novice, consists of a series of steps that incorporates anatomical adaptation. Anatomical adaptation requires youth (or anyone) to go through phases that work on muscular balance while increasing the support system of the body. The support system consists of joints, tendons, ligaments, core and skeletal muscles. FMF’s Youth Athletic Training Model® is broken down into 6 subcategories: first, the connective tissues; second, joint stabilization; third, muscular balance; fourth, developing core musculature; fifth, stabilizer muscles; and sixth, load and focused adaptation.

Phase three of the model focuses on muscular symmetry (i.e. balance) within the body. Muscular balance is vital for enhancing one’s strength, athletic performance, and injury prevention. Lack of balance (asymmetry) will often dictate where an athlete is vulnerable to be injured. Asymmetry will also shed light on an athlete’s weaknesses and strengths or what activity they most frequently perform. For example, while running or sprinting, an athlete who is unbalanced will apply more force upon the ground with the stronger side and less force on the weaker side. This asymmetry leads to decreased speed while the inability to handle the ground force impact (eccentric load) results in muscular tears and strains to the knee, hip flexor and/or hamstrings.

When analyzing a young athlete’s muscular balance, performing an overhead squat is essential to view the muscular restrictions and imbalances. Ask the young athlete to squat naturally. View the athlete squatting from the front, side and behind. This will allow you to check for some of the following:

-Heels rise

-Feet flatten

-Knee valgus; knees move in

-Lower back rounds

Once you have some information gathered a proper exercise regimen should focus on strengthening the underdeveloped muscles; increasing the elasticity of the overdeveloped muscles through self myofascial release therapy and PNF stretching; and coordinating the entire body (i.e. kinetic chain). During this analysis try looking at the body as four parts; the lower right, the upper right, the lower left and the upper left. This four point view allows for increased structural integrity awareness. Upon completion of this analysis the strength and conditioning coach must incorporate movements that focus on total body coordination, balance, symmetry and power transfer.
-Arms fall forward

Muscular balance must place emphasis on four areas: left and right halves; upper and lower body; injury prevention; and total body


Cross education training, which places focus on a single side at one time, can produce symmetry within the body between the left and right halves. Split squats, lunges, one arm dumbbell bench, and various others exercises are examples of cross-education training (3). One exercise that should be considered a must for young or novice resistance training participants is split squats. Split squats require balance, coordination, and unilateral strength. All of these characteristics are musts for sprinting, agility, and injury prevention during athletics.

The importance of upper and lower body coordination is often misunderstood in strength and conditioning. The mistake comes about when coaches and athletes alike believe that only training Olympic movements and/or traditional power lifts is enough to produce maximal levels of athleticism. It is worth noting that Olympic lifts is the most efficient and functional training form of an athletic training. However, athletes must focus on more than just Olympics. Dynamic multi-planar movements must be incorporated into any athletic performance program. For example, in the sport of swimming synchronization between the upper and lower halves is essential. If the stroke is disconnected then the athlete will be unable to reach maximal speed due to technical flaws within

Youth Athletic Trainingtheir stroke. Although Olympics is the best way to perform this coordination there are other exercises that should be incorporated, especially at the younger levels, to develop the neurological coordination to stay connected while preventing common injuries.

Simultaneously training the lower and upper body requires coordination and balance. Requiring coordinative movements is a great way to stimulate neurological coordination within the body. All athletic movements require this coordination and balance between the two. Heavy Ropes training provides a great platform to train both halves simultaneously. Heavy ropes require concentric upper body contractions while lower body movement can be integrated. There are numerous other exercises similar to heavy rope training, such as explosive throws or box jumps, which should be utilized during youth athletic training.

On the contrary, training coordination between the two halves separately is also advantageous. Basic upper body strength exercises are essential in stimulating neurological adaptations within the upper body. Pushups, push up plank transitions, pull ups, horizontal pull ups, seal sit ups, dips, and many other exercises can be safely utilized (with correct form) when focusing on the upper body.

Lower body training is not only essential in eliciting athletic gains but it does the most for preventing general injuries. Most sports require limited range of motion (ROM) action within the hip and knee regions. This characteristic leads to tissue, tendon, and ligament inelasticity (i.e. tightness). Full ROM training is the healer and preventer of injuries. Lower body compound exercises, such as overhead squats, split squats, front squats, FMF step ups and walking lunges are all fundamental lower body exercises that lead to greater levels of athleticism.

Muscular balance and coordination is the combination of upper body strength, lower body strength, core strength, agonist strength, antagonist strength and the ability to coordinate each aspect aforementioned in a harmonic fashion. The unification of the human body leads to a reduced risk of injury; faster sprinting speeds; quicker and more efficient reactions; stroke connection within the water; greater levels of strength and power; and anything that requires high amounts of athleticism. Numerous researches has pointed out that resistance training at a young age can in fact elicit all of the aforementioned adaptations. Muscular balance and coordination begins through the development of the core.  After all, the core is the center of all movements.


Read more on core strength by reading phase IV of FMF’s Youth Athletic Training – developing core musculature.

Copyright Functional Muscle Fitness LLC © 2012



  2. Wilson GJ. Applied anatomy and biomechanics in sport. Strength and Power in Sport. Bloomfield J, Ackland TR, and Elliott C, eds. Oxford, United Kingdom: Harpoon Publications, 2006.




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