High School Athletes Just Can’t Do It: Strength Training

Well they can do it, and should do it….but they don’t do it very well to start:)

…and for those of you who were wondering how you did on your breathing test….if your top hand moved first and more, that is dysfunctional breathing. the bottom hand should have moved first and more to indicate that the diaphragm was working correctly. More on how to improve breathing patterns another day…

Last Friday the 13th (insert scream here) I was on the road and delivered a presentation at the Cassagada Valley Regional School just on the Sinclaisrville, NY line about 1 hour southwest of Buffalo.

This was significant for a few reasons. One of which was the Continental Airlines Crash that occurred less than 5 miles from the Buffalo Airport. Thee still seems to be some debate on the cause, but it looks like the plane went from very cold air at a high altitude to very thick condensation and lost control. New reports are that the plane was on autopilot when it crashed killing all 49 people and one man on the ground. this opens the doors to others speculations, but check CNN for those. needless to say, there were some tense people on my flight from Boston to Buffalo Friday morning. To be honest, I didn’t even know about it until I was already on the plane…So I am grateful for the safe passage and my thoughts and prayers are for the victims and their families. This is the second time in a month that I have been on the way to a city and there was a plane crash there. I flew to NY right after that flight rash landed in the Hudson in January. Scary stuff!

Other points of significance were the school was beautiful and had completed a wonderful renovation of it’s original 1935 structure. They even found the mason/builder who did most of the original work and had him work from his notes to repair the statues to their identical state and had the mahogany restored to it’s original state as well. The school has had several additions as well, the most recent was the fitness center which is where I delivered my presentation to a group of coaches, teachers and the Athletic Director.

Another cool point was I even got to stick around for about 15-20 minutes after the presentation before I left for the airport to watch some of the high school and junior high school kids come in to workout. I spoke at length with one of the teachers who was one of the people to spearhead the push to install this facility. He was passionate about exercise and helping kids to exercise. He believed strongly in the benefits of strength training.

Their old “weight room” which was no more than a closet with a few ancient pieces of equipment in it was all they had to go on for years. To present an even greater challenge, the weight room was locked up most of the time and students had a hard time getting in to use it. this sounds like a very similar story to what my high school football coach went through, Phil Marchegiani, at Marian High School when trying to get his athletes access to strength training equipment.

Just to see the kids come in and fumble around the equipment was cool. Developmentally most kids are ready for strength training at a young age (as young as six and some as young as 4!), but to watch them just try and learn these movement patterns was an experience. Most kids are just learning coordination and control, not getting bigger and stronger. Their bone density improves, the strength goes up, risk of injury goes down, body composition improves and confidence soars! What a great activity for kids to be into.

Key points… too much too soon is dangerous, too heavy too soon is dangerous, unsupervised under the age of 14 can be dangerous,

….Focusing on control and coordination are key, it is not “how much” they lift, but “how well” they do it, body weight exercises are great, stability ball work is wonderful, machines (if the kids fit into them) can be used, awareness and skill are king.

Specific guidelines can be very tough to throw out there, but in my experience and in reading with the latest research this seems to fit pretty well. Remember this does not have to be weight lifting, bands tubes and body weight work well;

Kids 6-11 one to two times per week, flexibility, core, SAQ drills to warm up, 1-2 sets of 5-8 strength training exercises then cool down, 12-15 repetitions, rest 30-60 seconds between each set, total body program is recommended, spend 45-60 minutes on their workout

Kids 12-14; similar protocol, maybe add a 2nd or third day per week if their schedule, energy levels and inclination can afford it, maybe add 2-3 more strength training exercises still focusing on coordination and basic/simple strength training exercises but some kids will be ready to learn complex techniques, it is very individual, total body program is recommended, spend 45-60 minutes on their workout

Kids 14-16, 2-3 days per week, 8-12 reps can be used, more traditional exercises can be bled in, start to periodize their programs with different combinations of sets, reps, types of exercises etc, they may even move to a ‘body part” split from a total body program if they have been training for years and their goals justify it. some kids here will be like younger kids developmentally, some will look like young adults almost…don’t rush them, they will grow and get stronger on their own, master the basics and self care habits like core and flexibility most importantly. Spend 45-60 minutes on their workout

Kids 17-up some are ready for adult protocols, others ease in slowly, there is no rush here...

I will have some samples programs in my book, but these rough guidelines work pretty well with the groups of kids I work with. Safety and fun come first:) then you can really have some fun getting creative when they want to come back for more.

Keep in kind there has NEVER BEEN A SINGLE DOCUMENTED CASE OF GROWTH PLATE DAMAGE TO A CHILD IN A SUPERVISED STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM. Kids have shown benefits to strength training in studies when they were as young as 6 and another study being completed in TN when the participants are as young as 4!!! Just be smart, think coordination first, heavy weights last….there is no rush to lift a heavy weight.

There are great benefits for regular strength training as I have mentioned and one more I feel compelled to share…young females at the age of 9 can increase their bone density more than any other time in their lives by strength training here at this age.…why not prevent osteoporosis instead of treating it???

Now take your kids and teach them to strength train!

Thanks for reading!

Eric Beard
Athletic Performance Enhancement Specialist
Corrective Exercise Specialist

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