In my previous post LTAD – BS or Brilliance (Part 1) I discussed the initial forays made into LTAD by Istvan Balyi and his creation of the LTAD model. I also discussed some of the criticisms of his model, with the conclusion that there was some significant space for improvement.
Well in this post, I’d like to introduce to you the reader, what I think is currently the best model out there, which can be used to better understand the process of maturation, as well as providing better scope in the planning and progression of youth athletes. Enter “The Youth Physical Development Model” devised by university researchers and lecturers Rhodri Lloyd and Jon Oliver. This model was born out of a critical review of the LTAD model, leading to a subsequent model with more robustness from a scientific perspective.
In contrast to the LTAD model by Balyi, the YPD model is a bit more in-depth and congruent with scientific evidence of training adaptations in children. Rather than just considering chronological ages and then widening the bracket by a couple of years, the YPD model communicates the important of understanding the underlying physiological changes associated with physical maturation such as peak height velocity, peak weight velocity and circulating hormones. Additionally, there are certain characteristics considered vital for optimal sporting performance that are overlooked in the LTAD model altogether. For example: hypertrophy, power, agility and mobility. As such, there is a need for a model that incorporates these elements. The LTAD model suggested that there were specific “windows of opportunity” that if a coach failed to act upon to induce adaptation, would result in the capping of an athlete’s potential, however this lacks scientific evidence. And given that stance – doesn’t that make the absence of some fitness components in the LTAD model even more compelling?
As you’ll see from the images below, the YPD model considers chronological age, rate of physical growth and stage of PHV to understand and suggest what the primary training adaptations will be (eg. neural vs hormonal). These are based on the scientific evidence supporting these adaptations in training programs. For example, research suggests that strength gains can be made via neural adaptation in pre-pubertal years due to neural plasticity compared to puberty/post-puberty where gains are made from circulating hormones, mechanical adaptations and neural changes. The LTAD model only suggest incorporating strength 12-18 months after PHV.
As strength supports expression of speed, power and even fundamental movement skills – a model that fails to include strength adequately is not allowing optimal athletic development. Additionally, strength training can reduce injury risk, so why wait for circulating hormones to increase before allowing athletes to access the benefits? (It’s worth mentioning that along with strength – speed, power, agility and movement skill are improved due to neural changes that occur)
The YPD model allows a coach to select exercises that will stimulate the primary adaptation suggested during different maturation stages. Previously the LTAD model only highlighted “windows of opportunity” for particular elements, underestimating that adaptations can be produced throughout maturation. This leads to another element of this model that I particularly like – there is no “black and white” exercise selection. That is to say that no element is completely left out of the program outright, rather that different elements are given greater emphasis (in bold/font size) dependant upon the previous factors discussed. This is reflective of the necessity for elements of training to be within programs in the long term, to continue to reinforce adaptations and movement patterns (for example). This can lead to more effective program and athlete development. Additionally, the training structure is also addressed, as appropriate to the differing factors.
The components including throughout the model are:
- FMS – Fundamental movement skills
- MC – metabolic conditioning
- SSS – specific sport skills
You will notice some subtle changes between the male and female models based on gender differences across maturation. For example, the differences in duration of middle childhood, changes in suggested span of PHV and the subsequent affect this has on the emphasis of different training components.
So in my opinion, I think the YPD is superior to the LTAD model to describe and inform coaches, regarding optimal athletic development through childhood and adolescence. It is based on scientific evidence, it plus the gaps present in the LTAD model and it allows better understanding of the underlying physiological changes that should be targeted as part of the training program.
I personally hope this model will gradually overtake the widespread acceptance of LTAD as the model of reference for coaching courses and NGBs athletic development plans. Consider how you can utilise this model to guide your planning and progression of training in your youth athletes.
I would encourage you to read both of the articles below and make up your own mind! If you’re really keen – grab a copy of Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes
by Rhodri Lloyd and Jon Oliver.
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The Long-Term Athlete Development model: Physiological evidence and application
The Youth Physical Development Model: A new approach to Long-Term Athletic Development