youth hockey development

Making Movement Better

In a previous article we discussed the commonality every professional and elite-level athlete possesses. That of course was the accumulation of training years, a simple concept that states: the accumulation of time spent working and practicing a skill, the better/higher reward will be for the future.

The concept itself is simple, but what goes inside those years to create that accumulation? Is there another key that elite-level athletes possess? The answer is...yes, that is their movements patterns.

Every athlete that has ever had great success in their trade all have fundamentally developed movement patterns. These are the way one moves their body through time and space, but they don't just move, they move in a way that creates an optimal response. A huge key to success is learning this skill at a young age, the best athletes/lifters are those who understand their body. They pickup verbal cuing faster, they adapt to movements quicker, they create better ways to facilitate a response from the task at hand, and they possess body awareness.

At Institute 3e we make movement patterns a huge focus for our youth athletes; but why? Like discussed in our age-specific training article, there are points in an athlete's life when learning certain skills become almost impossible. We use animal flow with our younger athletes to improve their movements patterns and here's why...


  1. Locomotive skills - these are skills that can only truly be developed at young ages, this is the ability to coordinate limbs together in an optimal way (ex: crawling, running, skipping, animal flow movements, etc). An athlete who doesn't understand their body and how it specifically moves will have a harder time picking up on sport-specific movements and lifting patterns.
  2. Body awareness/propreoceptiveness - this is understanding where your body is at any point in time, an athlete will understand how to move to create an asked response. For example: if an athlete is back squatting they understand why and where they're moving the bar, they can quickly grasp what they should be feeling and how to move to achieve the best results.
  3. Improved mobility - the best way to stay mobile and flexible is to never lose mobility and flexibility. Animal flow demands the body to move in different ways to stretch and improve the body, which will carry over to other athletic aspects.
  4. Range of motion increase - maintaining flexibility and mobility is important, but so is improving them. Animal flow will do so by creating a specific movement demand that may not already be possessed by the athlete, aka increasing their range of motion.
  5. More coachable - as an athlete grows their demands become greater and more in-depth. A coach needs them to do progressively harder tasks as competition becomes greater, if you understand your body and move to your best ability-you better believe you'll be easier to work with. There will be no time wasted teaching basic movements, you already possess them.


The bigger picture - if there's one point to be taken away from this article, it's being able to see the bigger picture. Once certain ages/times of development have passed, certain skills are near impossible if not completely impossible to learn. Development needs to start at young ages, while you think its just another youth focused drill; you're wrong. Every bit of time practicing these skills at young ages act as bricks, these bricks create entire athletic foundations. Younger athletes are especially important, it's easy to learn a movement, it's hard to understand a movement.

The Commonality Every Elite Athlete Possesses

There's one commonality that every elite athlete possesses, it's something that could be argued as the most important aspect to their success. This commonality is called...accumulation of training years.

We stress this concept so often to our athletes and their parents-if you want future success you have to put the time in now. Accumulation of training years is the concept that all of the years/time spent practicing your skill will lead to the best/optimal athletic result. Think about every pro athlete you follow, how often do you hear them say, "Well I started when I was 14." You don't. They start young, they practiced forever and put in the work, which correlates to their success.

No athlete plays a sport not wanting success for their effort, which is why we push for younger athletes to start learning basic concepts early. The picture below shows our table of critical age periods of trainability - this table illustrates which age level will benefit from different forms of training. Every age has their optimal times to learn different skills. For example, think about a skill like coordination and a midget aged athlete - if a midget didn't take the time to develop coordination at a young age it's incredibly hard (if possible at all) to catch up to someone who started when they were 5.

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A lot of times younger athletes don't realize how much the drills and practice is building towards their success, every time they're in the gym it's building their foundation. As trainers it's easy to see which athletes started at a young age, even when we're teaching exercises/lifts athletes don't have previous experience with.

For example, teaching a back squat - if you took two athletes, one who's been in the gym and worked their flexibility, body awareness and understands basic movements and the other none of the prior, 10/10 times the athlete who understand basic concepts will learn and develop the move faster. This again can be linked back to accumulation of training years, it's the lump sum of training/athletic experiences that weighs heaviest on future success.

Every concept learned and worked on will correlate to an advanced future concept. Body awareness is linked to better lifting (understanding movements/verbal cues), basic plyometrics correlate to explosive power/strength, the list goes on forever...

Athletic success has one commonality, it's the total amount of time spent practicing and training your trade. Start working today to build your future, every day counts.