Young Athletes in the Gym
We live in an area where youth sports are very popular. Early specialization is becoming more common and youth strength and conditioning is becoming a trendy activity for young athletes. For kids under 15 years old, starting to work out is normal. In fact, more and more junior high students are seen at the gym working out. This is not a bad thing. What could be bad is the application of what they are doing. Between the ages of 8-15, the body is in a building and maturation phase. Most kids these ages lack coordination, movement skills, running mechanics and they seem to “flop” around like a fish out of water.
What should kids be focusing on when they do workout?
Here are few things to think about:
- Bodyweight strength is critical. Get this age group to become superior at bodyweight control. Once they can start understanding their own body’s movements and strength then you can start adding light external loads. Having bodyweight strength will create a solid foundation to build on the rest of their life.
- Improved running mechanics. Young athletes have poor running mechanics. They flop and flail all over the place. Teaching proper running mechanics can be a great way to add coordination and agility to the arsenal, all while increasing foot speed and running efficiency.
- Keep it simple. Youth athletes need the basic and simplest exercises. Getting too complicated too early means you are skipping progression steps and when you skip steps you risk injury. Focus on perfect push-ups, bodyweight squats, pull-ups, core strength and proper stretching mechanics.
- Stretching is huge. I see more and more young athletes super tight and immobile. At these ages the muscles should be stretchy and supple so we can run, jump and cut more efficiently and reduce injury.
- If it looks cool, it probably isn’t. Too many parents will see professionals on TV working out a certain way and then want their 9-year old kid doing the same things. Go back and read #3. You must keep it simple and master the basic exercises. Repetitive jumping, lifting and crunching will lead to overuse injuries.
- Weight training is about perfect form – no exceptions. When weight training is introduced do not let technique go by the waste side. Think “technical failure”. When you no longer have perfect form the set is completed.
- It’s about building lifestyle habits. Overall, this should be the #1 goal. A lot of kids have a dream of playing a professional sport but the odds are stacked against them. Teach them now how to be healthy and live healthy and they will have a healthy foundation the rest of their life.
Come check out our Youth Athlete Programs at California Fitness Academy and The CFA Playground.