The 10 Key Factors of LTAD

The 7 stages of LTAD have been defined according to 10 broad key factors that have been identified for successful athlete development. The 10 key factors relate to processes of human maturation and how these processes interact with training, competition and recovery program design through the athlete’s lifetime. These key factors have been gleaned from the most current research in sport science, together with observed best practices in training, competition and coaching around the world.

1 - Excellence Takes Time
In Olympic Weightlifting, historical evidence suggests a minimum of 8 years of training is required to develop the ability to be able to compete at an international level. An additional 4+ years of training is necessary to compete at an elite international level, such as at the World Championships and Olympic Games.

Clearly, the development of an Olympic Weightlifter is a long-term process. Weightlifting coaches and athletes should therefore avoid a short-term focus on performance as this can be detrimental to the development of the Weightlifting athlete.

2 - The FUNdamentals
All sports are based on fundamental movement skills and fundamental sports skills. Fundamental movement skills are closely associated with the ABCs – Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed – and they include basic movement skills such as running, jumping, skipping, throwing, and catching. Fundamental sports skills are those fundamental movement skills applied to a basic sport activity, such as throwing a basketball to score a basket, or catching a baseball after a batter has hit it into the air.

Research has demonstrated that children will experience more success and achievement in sport if they are trained to be physically “literate” in these skills prior to their adolescent growth spurt.

Fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills should be widely incorporated into the early stages of Olympic Weightlifting training in order to supplement the training provided by other components of the sport system, such as schools and recreation centres.

3 - Specialization
Some sports require “early specialization” to obtain elite performance levels, while other sports see better athlete performance in “late specialization”.

International trends over the past two decades have seen the age of specialization in Olympic Weightlifting shift from 14 years in the 1970s to 10 years in the 1990s. The decreasing age of specialization does not affect the time required to become proficient in Olympic Weightlifting. However, it does mean that elite Olympic Weightlifters are appearing in competition at younger ages.

Olympic Weightlifting requires a foundation of fundamental motor skills, specifically jumping, coordination and body awareness. Therefore, care should be taken to ensure specialization in Olympic Weightlifting does not compromise the development of the fundamentals.

Older athletes should not be discouraged from specializing in Olympic Weightlifting. Olympic Weightlifting success is largely affected by muscular strength and power, and these characteristics are best developed post-adolescence. As well, athletes from other sports can specialize late in Olympic Weightlifting and still achieve a high level of success. Many of Canada’s best Olympic Weightlifters have transferred over from other sports, including gymnastics, martial arts and athletics. Participation in these sports contributes to the development of a high level of physical literacy that can be beneficial for success in Olympic Weightlifting.

4 - Developmental Age
Everyone passes through the same stages of development from early childhood through adolescence, but the timing and rate of development varies. This is described as the difference between chronological age and developmental age. Two children may be the same chronological age, but they may be four to five years apart in developmental age. Weightlifting coaches need to take into account these differences in developmental age when they design programs for their adolescent and post-adolescent athletes.

Training of the Olympic Weightlifter should consider both developmental and training age. The optimal age range for entry into Olympic Weightlifting is 10-14 years. Young athletes should be introduced to Olympic Weightlifting technique prior to their growth spurt (generally 10-11 years for girls and 13-14 years for boys). Regardless of their developmental age, training programs for beginners (i.e. weightlifters with low training age) should share an emphasis on technical/skill development. However, other aspects of their training program, such as strength development, will depend on their developmental age.

5 - Trainability
Trainability refers to the body’s responsiveness to training stimuli at different stages of growth and maturation. The physiological systems of the athlete can be trained at any age, but there are sensitive periods when individuals are especially responsive to specific types of training (e.g. stamina, strength, speed, skill and suppleness).

Accordingly, to reach their full genetic potential, Weightlifters need to receive the right type of training at the correct stage of development. If the sensitive periods are missed, Weightlifters may grow to be strong and skilled, but they may never be as strong and skilled as they could have been if their training had made maximum use of the sensitive periods or “windows” of optimal trainability.

6 - Physical, Mental, Cognitive, and Emotional Development
As athletes grow from childhood through adolescence, they experience significant changes in their physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional capacities. Coaches need to consider these changes as they plan training regimens and competition programs for their athletes. Failure to account for these changes may result in mental or emotional burnout, undue mental stress, anxiety, diminished confidence, and early exit from the sport. Sport participation is an important avenue to developmental skills that contribute to success in and out of sport. Athletes participating in organized training programs develop morals consistent with fair play, discipline and determination, and work ethic.

Research indicates that children and adolescents participating in Olympic Weightlifting and related activities have better grades, longer attention spans, and more positive mood states. Experience has also shown that elite Olympic Weightlifters display the ability for intense concentration, muscular relaxation, or mental flexibility – skills that should be systematically developed throughout the various developmental stages.

7 - Periodization
Periodization refers to creating logical and scientific-based schedules for athlete training, competition, and recovery, giving consideration to choice of exercise, order of exercise, volume, intensity, and rest. Periodization plans typically address training and competition over the moderate term, such as a yearly training plan or a quadrennial (4 year) training plan. Periodization takes into account the most important competitions and makes allowances so the Olympic Weightlifter can achieve maximum performance at these competitions.

At every stage of athlete development, periodization plans should be adjusted to account for each athlete’s growth, maturation, and trainability. For more information on periodization, please refer to Training Periodization for the Olympic Weightlifter.

8 - Calendar Planning for Competition
Calendar planning for competition is critical to athlete development at all stages. Different stages of development and maturation have different requirements for the type, frequency, and level of competition.

In the early stages of an Olympic Weightlifting career, development of physical capacities takes precedence over high-level competition. Club competitions in the form of individual or team events, or specific skill tests such as lifting technique or jumping ability, provide an opportunity to assess and monitor each athlete’s progress.

At later stages, the focus shifts to more formal competition. The events calendar should provide further developmental events (Inter-club or Provincial competitions), selection events (Regional competitions), and major events (National and International competitions).

For elite weightlifters, an Olympic quadrennial (4 year) plan should be established. Regardless of each athlete’s level, the competition schedule should be established based on the athlete’s individual developmental needs.

9 - System Alignment and Integration
LTAD recognizes that each athlete’s development is affected by the variety of different sport and physical activity environments they experience as they grow through childhood and adolescence. These range from club sport programs to physical education programs at school, recreational activities, and school sports.

LTAD encourages these different sport groups, institutions, and organizations to work cooperatively to serve the best interests of the athletes, ensuring that they are mutually supportive, clear in their roles and responsibilities, and aware of how they contribute to the process of development. In short, Olympic Weightlifters will develop best in a coordinated sport system that is clearly defined, logically structured, and based upon consistent principles.

Just as the Olympic Weightlifters on the competition platform must integrate and align their movements, the components of the Olympic Weightlifting system must integrate and align their activities. All parts of the Canadian Olympic Weightlifting system – clubs, schools, provincial associations, CWFHC – need to promote integration and alignment with one another. Similarly, Canadian Olympic Weightlifting needs to interact with the community of health professionals, colleges & universities, professional organizations, and private enterprises.

10 - Continuous Improvement
LTAD is based on the best available research in sports science and the best practices in athlete training around the world, but sport science and training methodologies are always being refined. The ‘continuous improvement’ approach can ensure that Olympic Weightlifting in Canada reacts in a timely manner to new scientific research and sport-specific innovations. Olympic Weightlifting should be prepared to embrace emerging innovations in physical education, sport, and recreation to ensure progress and reliability in the systematic and logical delivery of training programs at all ages.