Jul 05, 2016 • 5 min read
In the last article, we covered three common myths about youth strength training that can make parents hesitant to introduce their child to strength training. In this article, we’ll discuss how to create a fun, positive and productive training environment to bring young athletes into the weight room.
To start off, let’s begin with an analysis of youth strength training from Dr. Avery Faigenbaum of the College of New Jersey:
“Any age is a good age [to begin strength training]. But there does seem to be something special about the time from about age seven to 12. The nervous system is very plastic. The kids are very eager. It seems to be an ideal time to hard-wire strength gains and movement patterns. And if you structure a program right…it can be so much fun that it never occurs to the kids that they’re getting quote-unquote ‘strength training’ at all.” (Click here to read the full article.)
A better question to ask is, “how do we modify ‘training’ to be more suitable for any age of athlete?” For youths, “practice” shouldn’t really be practice and “training” shouldn’t really be training. In today’s rush of early specialization, high school freshman pre-committing to colleges and intensely competitive youth sports, the idea of “play” is often forgotten entirely. Strength training can be a great opportunity for youths to play in a different way. Creating this environment is the key to creating a long-term sustainable habit that will last them through whatever playing career they choose.
With excellent instruction and coaching, young athletes can use sports training to improve their motor control and coordination, develop better movement mechanics to improve sport performance, decrease injury risk and build lifelong habits of mental focus and physical discipline.
Youth sport training is NOT about being “sport specific.” When I trained a group of 7 to twelve year old soccer and lacrosse players, each session loosely ran on this structure to train for comprehensive movement and all-around athletic skills:
As you can see, very little of this session is actually just lifting weights. The worst thing you can do with a young athlete is hand them a piece of paper with a bunch of “three sets of 10 on each machine” kind of lifts. Plyometrics, bodyweight exercises, free weights, odd objects and MOVING are much more fun ways of developing all-around athleticism and coordination. This will keep kids coming back for more without the risk of injury.
Will Ruth is a high school lacrosse, college men’s rowing, and strength and conditioning coach. He holds certifications in strength and conditioning, a BS in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology, and is pursuing an MA in Sport Coaching degree from the University of Denver. Will is a former rower and lacrosse player and currently competes in the sport of strongman. More of Will’s written work, podcasts, and strength and conditioning resources can be found on his website, www.strengthcoachwill.com.