Strength Training For Youth Requires a Solid Foundation

It All Starts With a Good Foundation

By Wade Perkins

A solid foundation is crucial for any progressive training program.  It is always irresponsible to pass over the important aspects of fundamental strength and perfect technique in the interest of finding shortcuts to bigger numbers.

The best thing about this truth with regard to training youth athletes, is that most of them are starting from the beginning.   One of the greatest challenges for sports coaches and fitness trainers in any discipline is erasing bad habits.  Habits that have been developed over years of bad repetitions.  

Most young athletes haven’t had time to ingrain bad technique in their strength training programs, which makes it a touch easier to teach them the correct ways if you know what you’re doing.  

Building Fundamentally Sound Youth Athletes

There isn’t really a discipline in the fitness or sports world that I can think of that doesn’t require solid fundamentals for mastery.  It’s like being a world class mathematician.  At some point in their number crunching career, most of the problems probably don’t involved simple addition anymore.  However, in the process of building the math genius it would be ridiculous to never teach him addition as a child.  

We teach kids the things they need to know in order to build a strong foundation.  We don’t teach them these things because it’s all they need to know, we teach them the fundamentals to support all the things they’re going to learn in the future.

In baseball, there are dozens of variables for a hitter at the plate.  The actual percentage of the time that he gets to take his “perfect” swing that he’s practiced thousands of times off the tee in the cages is probably very low in games.  Most the time the pitchers have them off balance,  and are throwing to many different locations with many different velocities.  

But that doesn’t mean that the fundamental “perfect” swing isn’t crucial in training.

Youth Strength Training Needs To Occur In The Right Order

Youth strength training is similar to sports or academic training, in that it all has to start right at the beginning.  There will be hundreds of twists and turns, additions and subtractions, and constant deviations from the most basic skills as they build their knowledge and strength.  

The important thing to understand is that all of those things will be built on the solid foundation of proper fundamentals.

It’s tempting to skip steps.  A coach has a kid that’s clearly more advanced than others and appears to be able to add weight faster than most in the weight room.  The immature “immediate gratification” desire in all of us sits on our shoulder and begs us to skip the easy stuff.  The kid will benefit more from learning the advanced lifts now, and he’ll be stronger than his peers in no time.

This is flawed thinking in most cases.  Youth who are just starting out in a strength program must start at the beginning every single time.

Skipping steps and adding a greater load to imperfect technique is a recipe for disaster.  

Ignore External Temptations And Train Youth The Right Way

We do live in a society where faster is better.  The real problem with this in strength training for youth is that it carries with it too high a cost.  

The whole idea behind putting kids on a solid strength training program is to teach their bodies how to move correctly, express power, add strength and mobility, promote good health, and enhance their ability to perform.  Putting the wrong priorities in front and ignoring the fundamentals of strength and technique will be counterproductive to every single one of those objectives. 

People ask all the time what kind of strength program youth should be on, if they should be on one at all.  The answer is one that’s designed very intentionally to teach them the right way to do things.  Most young athletes shouldn’t even touch a weight until they’ve produced perfect movement patterns without it.  

Train Youth For Long Term Gains

Most of the writers for train both youth and adults in their careers.  One thing that we all observe is that many adults have very poor form and technique in most exercises.  This can lead to many issues including chronic pain, imbalanced muscle growth, skeletal issues, and stunted development.  In many cases this poor movement is caused by a lack of knowledge.

The adults we work with were never trained properly, they were never taught the best way to move through the workouts.  Back to the best part of training youth for performance; we have the chance to set them on the right path for life.  

Anytime we get the chance to train young people, it’s a great opportunity for us to teach them habits that will lead to a healthy and strong life.  We must always start where we should with them, right squarely at the beginning.  Build slowly and consistently, and that young person will have the foundation they need to build a great career. 

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