The Training of Young Athletes

When Should Young Athletes Start Training?

This post is dedicated to young  athletes who are in middle school (ages 8-12). A lot of parents come to me and wonder what the best age to get their kid started with a strength training program is. They usually think that if they are in middle school that they are too young because training will “stunt their growth”. This could not be further from the truth.

The best age to start training is when you are in middle school. Have you ever watched a 5 or 6 year old move or play a game like tag? Kids this age have excellent mobility, they can usually do a full bodyweight squat with perfect technique. Over the years young athletes loose their mobility and ability  because they are too busy playing Call of Duty with their buddies or sitting on the couch getting fat. Instead, they should be playing in the playground or playing as many sports as possible.

The Biggest Mistake Young Athlete’s Make

Trying to specilize in a sport from a young age is a HUGE mistake that is made far too often. Parents and kids alike think that if they want to become a better baseball player, they have to play baseball all year around and neglect other sports. This is a mistake I too made when I was young. I see it in young baseball players more than any other sport. The problem with this is the young athlete is exposed to a limited number or movement patterns. Down the road this will lead to muscular imbalances and eventually injury problems. Is it any wonder why you see so many high school baseball players getting Tommy John surgery or why they suffer from other injuries? Most injuries do not happen overnight. They are an accumulation of faulty movement patterns that get worse overtime, eventually leading to injuries.

The best advice I can give to a parent is have your son or daughter play as many sport as possible because this will allow them to become a better overall athlete. I would also recommended you have them do gymnastics at a young age. They will learn to control their bodyweight and learn basic movements that will build a solid foundation to build upon. The best young athletes are those that play MULTIPLE SPORTS and those that have high relative body strength.

The Training of a Young Athlete

There are a couple of rules that need to applied to the training of a young athlete.

Teach the basics

In order to increase general physical preparedness, young athletes need to master the basics. The goal for young athletes isn’t to get them strong but instead the goal is to build up a solid foundation so they can become a great athlete down the road. Overall work capacity is the goal for all young athletes. Start with basic movements bodyweight squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups, climbing rope, hand walking, bear crawl, crab walks and wall walks to name a few. Teach your athletes the proper athletic position and how to land properly. You cannot learn to jump if you do not know how to land! Jumping rope is a skill all young athletes need to acquire. It is the most basic plyometric exercise. Gymnastic movements are critical to the success of a young athlete. If your young athletes can crawl, jump, climb, run I guarantee you they will be in awesome shape and more importantly they will have a solid base to build upon. Once

Once a young athlete demonstrates control over their body through basic bodyweight movements, it is okay to introduce external resistance. Kettlebells, dumbbells and PVC pipe are excellent choices. Kettlebells are great for doing skill work with young athletes. Teach them how to do snatches, cleans, presses, swings, goblet squats and lunges and various kettlebell carries. The same exercises can be done with dumbbells. Once they master doing 1 kettlebell, you can then introduce doing the same exercises with two kettlebells. PVC pipe is excellent to teach basic barbell lifts. It is an awesome tool to teach proper position on all major barbell lifts. Sled drags and prowler pushes are the best way to increase general physical preparedness. Young athletes can start doing these at any age.

Training should be fun-Young athletes do not want to be board to death, especially not from training. Try to keep things fun and engaging. Have your young athletes compete against each other every now and then. Just be sure to make sure their technique stays perfect. Training sessions should be completed in around 30 minutes. A great workout for most kids is going to the park, swinging on the monkey bars and playing tag.

Technique is everything- There is no magic number of reps or sets that should be completed. Keep in mind that the set should end before technique breaks down. For most young athletes, high rep sets are a HUGE mistake. After a couple of reps, technique starts to break down and get ugly so keep reps low and use multiple sets.


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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  • Tony Lugo

    Joe,
    Thank you very much for sharing this article. Are there more videos available on YouTube that I can search to see proper examples of the all of the kettlebell exercises you talk about above? I grew up in a time where we were just told to go in the gym and “lift”. We didn’t have a program. We were free to do whatever we wanted. We usually would bench, do bicep curls, some squats, some military press, and maybe a pull up or two if we felt frisky. So for me, teaching the correct form isn’t easy. I really need to be shown how these exercises are done properly to teach my son and other athletes the proper form. Thanks again for sharing this article. I’m sure there are a lot of people that find this article very helpful.

  • Tony,

    Thanks for your comment. You honestly can’t go wrong with the basics you mentioned. Learning the technique is a matter of practice. It is a skill that is acquired through repetition.

    As far as the videos go, have you checked out my YouTube page? I have 118 training videos. There are a bunch using kettlebells. Here is a link to my page. Subscribe to it to stay connected and updated with my videos.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/MeglioFitness?feature=mhum

    Have you joined my newsletter yet? This is the best way to stay connected with me and get exclusive information only available to my follower.

    Sign up here—-> http://megliofitness.com/join-my-email-list/

    Hope this helps Tony! If you have any specific questions about any exercises in particle just let me know.

    All the best,

    Joe

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