Youth Training Done right
Last November, a good buddy of mine who is a very accomplished college strength coach came up to Boston for a seminar we put organized on a Sunday. He actually flew up Friday night so that he could observe on Saturday while we trained our clients – which was a nice blend of youth training, high school, college, and professional athletes, plus our adult clientele. All told, I’d say that high school athletes are 70% of our clientele.
That Tuesday morning, I woke up to this email from him:
“I just wanted to say thanks for everything. I had a great time. Your staff was outstanding and I really enjoyed watching you guys work on Saturday. I realize you are managers, but certainly technicians as well. Perfect form, I told Tony I saw two bad reps all weekend and someone was on the athlete before he had a chance to do another rep!!! Thanks so much and come visit anytime, we would love to have you.”
This isn’t an email to toot our own horn; it’s to make a very valuable point. If this coach had walked into every single private training facility and high school youth training weight room in the country, in what percentage of cases do you think he would have come out with a favorable impression of the technique he witnessed? If I had to venture an extremely conservative guess, I’d say less than 10%.
Simply stated, both in the public and private sector, some coaches are letting kids get away with murder with respect to technique, not warming up, using too much weight, and a host of other factors.
What happens, then, when the s**t hits the fan and a kid gets hurt? I’ll tell you: certain exercises get “condemned” and programs become more and more foo-foo; external loading is eliminated and kids wind up doing agility ladders and “speed training” for 60-90 minutes at a time in what can only be described as glorified babysitting. Or, worse yet, weight rooms get closed altogether. The door of opportunity gets slammed in the faces of a lot of kids who desperately need to get strong to stay healthy, improve performance, and build confidence.
That’s the reactive model. What about a proactive model to prevent these issues in the first place? Again, I’ll tell you: assess kids up-front. Find out what is in their health history and evaluate how well they move – and then program individually for them. Coach intensely in their initial sessions and get things right from the start. And, if an exercise doesn’t work for them, give them an alternative.
As an example, take the squat – as shown in the video below. Some kids may not have sufficient ankle or hip mobility to squat deep in an Olympic style squat, so they’ll benefit more (and stay healthier) with box squat variations while you improve their mobility. Others may even be too immobile (or possess structural issues like femoroacetabular impingement) to even box squat safely, so you give them more single-leg work and deadlift variations. Regardless, you “coach ‘em up” well from the get-go – and they learn along the way.
The exercises aren’t the problem for youth training; it’s the system in which they are placed.
Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS is the President of Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. He published a free daily blog and weekly newsletter at www.EricCressey.com. For more information on his new resource, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better, visit www.ShowAndGoTraining.com.