Guidelines for Training Teenage Athletes

Following these guidelines will put your athlete in a great position to maximize their athletic abilities when it matters the most.

As the strength and conditioning field progresses forward, myths about youth strength training are being busted. It's becoming more and more accepted to allow your young athlete to start resistance training earlier in life. While this is a great advantage for young athletes that buy into a good youth strength training program, there are still some guidelines every strength coach should follow when working with a younger athlete.

Their hormone content and physical abilities are different than that of an older athlete; they're still developing neurologically, growing and maturing. For athletes between the ages of 12 and 15 use these guidelines in your program to optimize results now and for the future!

Teenage Athlete

Movement Education

Youth athletes are still developing and getting use to their body. They may look proficient in their sport, but Squats, Deadlifts, Push-Ups and Rows may present a challenge when done correctly. Being compliant in the basic movement patterns before loading them is vital; otherwise you'll be adding strength on top of a dysfunctional movement setting them up for injury in the future. General movement and strength preparation is the foundation of your sports specific strength. Every athlete should be generally prepared before adding any sports specific strength training or advanced strength training techniques. The hip hinge instruction in the video above is an example of what this should look like.

Use Eccentrics and Isometrics

Slow Eccentrics and Isometric holds should be in every youth athlete program. Using light to moderate weight while performing it for a slow count (4-6 seconds) or holding a challenging position such as the bottom of the Squat or the top of a Row for a (3-5 seconds) will teach them how to create tension and move well under load. Being maximally loaded has its time and place, using light to moderate weight with slow eccentrics and isometrics will set them up to handle heavier loads much better in the future. Creating even more significant results once they get there. Earn your right to the heavier weights.

Slow Eccentric Goblet Squat

Chest Support Row Iso Hold

6-Second Eccentric Bulgarian Split Squat

Use high rep ranges

Higher rep ranges will engrain a movement pattern into the athletes' brains until they are unconsciously proficient in that movement. Similar to eccentric and isometric training, this will set them up for when they are introduced to heavier loads. Using rep ranges between 8-15 and performing AMRAP sets (as many reps as possible with good form) for the last set are great ways to use high-rep schemes to develop strength. Doing this will make your athlete more neurologically efficient and help increase the size of their muscles, creating a great foundation for heavy loading.

Refrain from using higher progressions in your lifts

Higher progressions such as the Trap Bar/Straight Bar Deadlift, Back/Safety Bar Squats, and Bench Press are all great exercises to develop strength for older more advanced athletes. Mastering the lower level progressions will still add strength in the beginning while allowing them to save the higher level progressions for when the athlete is ready. Keep it simple and get really good at the basics.

Kettlebell Deadlift

Barbell Push-Ups

Heavy Goblet Squats

TRX Rows

Extra core and posterior chain work

Commonly under-developed areas in an athlete when older are the back side and the core. To make sure this isn't an issue later on, make their core and posterior chain strong at a young age. This will result in less muscular imbalances later on in their career and create a better foundation for sport-specific strength and power to be developed. Address the issues older athletes face early, so it's not a limiting factor later.

Core work

Plank With Full Exhale

Shoulder Taps

Core-Engaged Dead Bugs

Suitcase Carry

Bear Crawl

Backside work

Chain-Loaded RDL

Barbell Glute Bridge

Single-Leg Hip Thrust

Reverse Plank

Glute Bridge Marches

Make the workout challenging yet enjoyable.

The gym is where you can learn valuable life lessons. Failure is inevitable. How you choose to react to failure will make or break your sporting career and life. We can't all be professional athletes, but we can bring our work ethic and drive for greatness in our sport to everyday life. Teaching this in the gym will allow your athlete to love the process and roll with the punches. Success is birthed from failure.

Being a youth athlete between the ages of 12 and 15 this is an extremely valuable time in which you can set a great strength foundation for the future. Following these guidelines will put your athlete in a great position to maximize their athletic abilities when it matters the most.