Young Athletes Training System
Stephen Holt has long been considered one of the fitness industry’s top personal trainers. He has been highlighted by NSCA, PTontheNet, Fitness Magazine, IDEA and Health and Fitness Source, to name a few. Additionally, Stephen has been named "Expert of the Year" by AllExperts.com and "Personal Trainer of the Year" by the American Council on Exercise.
BG: What’s your background in youth sports and athletics? Have you worked with young athletes?
SH: Hi, Brian. First, let my point out that I’m really glad to hear about your book. Far too many trainers and parents are forcing kids into programs designed by and for adult bodybuilders.
Back to your question & That depends on your definition of "young." When I started as a personal trainer over 20 years ago, I set a minimum age of 16 for clients. Later, as I took more courses and read more books and articles on training young athletes, I lowered that minimum to 14, then eventually 10 or so, depending on their mental and physical maturity.
Most of the young athletes I help are girls’ lacrosse players with the youngest being 11. (We started when she was 9).
Although I focus on lacrosse (it’s a major sport here in the Baltimore area), most of the girls are three-season athletes and also play soccer, field hockey basketball and/or tennis.
If the athlete is a little younger (9-11,12), I’ll typically train them along with one parent. It seems to keep all of us happier.
BG: There are a lot of coaches, parents and even trainers who treat young athletes as if they were "little adults". What I mean by that is they will take the training routine of a superstar athlete and use it as a guide when working with youngsters. Why, if at all, should we warn against that kind of training?
SH: I agree that, unfortunately, there are too many young athletes being forced to specialize in a single sport.
Although it may appear counterintuitive at first, it’s better for young athletes NOT to specialize in a single sport. A single sport will limit that athlete’s motor development. Diversity puts the young athlete in various positions and requires different motor patterns and different strategies of muscle and muscle fiber recruitment.
You’ll find that most successful adult athletes were well-rounded athletes when they were younger.
BG: The age old debate is "How old should an athlete be before they begin lifting weights." What’s your view on that controversial topic?
SH: For years we’ve heard the myth that weight training will stunt a young athlete’s growth, but most scientific evidence shows otherwise.
In fact, recent studies indicate that young athletes can make gains in strength and, in some cases, even muscle size (which we once thought was impossible) at any virtually any age.
What you do what to avoid, however, are structured weight training "routines" based on traditional bodybuilding for adults.
respond better both mentally and physically to workouts that are more like play. Games using medicine balls work well, for example.
We also know that the adult heart rate charts don’t work for children and neither do the %RM vs. reps charts. It’s clear that the "rules" that we often use in training adults don’t apply to young athletes and can even be harmful.
BG: Using your ideals, could you define "functional conditioning" for us?
SH: It’s interesting that "functional" is probably the most popular buzzword in the fitness industry these days, yet most people, even trainers who claim that they’re "functional," can’t define exactly what they mean.
My definition of functional is "fortifying the way the body is designed to work based upon anatomy, movement patterns and biomechanics."
I use what I call the "3-4-5 System."
This is a little technical, but … I make sure that my clients work all three planes (sagittal, frontal, transverse), all four outer unit muscle systems (anterior oblique, posterior oblique, deep longitudinal and lateral) and all five basic motor patterns (pushing, pulling, rotation, moving your center of gravity, and working on one leg).
If you’re doing the math and think that’s a lot of exercises, it doesn’t total up to 3 x 4 x 5 = 60 different exercises. You simply select exercises that cover multiple categories.
The scientific basis is a little complicated, but the exercises are not as complicated. I explain it all in my book and through free excerpts that I publish in my "3-4-5 Fitness Newsletter." Most people pick up the system quickly and easily.