One of the biggest questions we get is “When can my son or daughter start weight training?” That’s hard a question to answer and it is a very opinion based one as well. The problem with the question is every athlete is different. So where one 13 year old athlete could be snatching and power cleaning another 16 year old could come to our facility and is months away from touching a bar! We ask can your athlete do a cartwheel, a round off, 10 clean pushups, 5 pullups, a 30 second plank and 20 bodyweight squats? If the answer is no to the above exercises your young athlete in our opinion is not ready to touch a barbell to squat, bench, dead lift or hang clean. It does not matter the age either! Those are just the minimum assessments in body control and functional strength tests to set a starting point.
Typically we have younger elementary aged athletes doing all body weight exercises and when a base line is set we slowly implement sand bags, sand bells, balls, ropes and push/pull sleds. A progressions could look something like this bear crawls/ pushing a slam ball while crawling/ pushing a plate in a towel / pushing a sled this typically works for all ages all the way down to 2nd graders. Starting at basic movement patterns and slowly introducing resistance.
Once we get into 5, 6 & 7 graders we start using demo/sand bags and other implements to start working on movement patterns that are functional and similar in movement to our four main lifts. A progression could look like this: squats with a stable manageable object like a 10 – 45 lb plate bear hugged / squats while bear hugging a slam ball or sand bag each of which have a degree of instabilty/ front squatting with demo bags with the same form and movement patterns as barbell front squats.
This works for all of the four main lifts and progresses nicely. So for an athlete that has been training with us since 4th grade come 7-8th grade when we start putting barbells on their backs and chests the range of motion is there and their body is already functionally strong for this exercise.
Here is an example for our 8-9 years for general physical preparedness session.
Worm run- coach or lead athlete runs fast jog changing directions, zig zags, circles etc. rest of athletes stay in line and follow
- 20 jumping jacks
- 15 air squats
- 10 arm circles forward
- 10 arm circles backwards
- Bear crawls 3×10 yards
- Skipping 3×10 yards
- Cartwheels 6 each side
- Sand bag slams 3×6- focusing on good flat back, driving thru floor with leg drive on lift with chest up
- Tremor ball / slam ball- dead lift to over shoulder 3×4 each shoulder
- Standing band pulls to sternum – 3×25 knees bent to resemble sitting in a chair butt down back straight pull to sternum slow controlled negatives/eccentric
- Farmers walks- 2x 20-40 seconds
- Broad jumps for distance- not measuring in feet and inches but making it a game how many jumps it takes to get across gym usually 4-7
This would typically take about 25-30 minutes and then we might do some type of challenge like inverted row hang or one legged balance game.