What You Need To Know About Adolescents & Resistance Training

There’s a myth that’s been going around for quite some time in regard to weights/resistance training and the younger demographic. This myth is that it can be harmful, it stunts growth and many others… And it’s utter BS!

At this age point, it is the perfect time to teach correct movement patterns and technique to help set the foundation that will be with them for the rest of their lives. It also aids in decreasing the risk of injury, especially in contact sports, and helps increase confidence in oneself and their abilities. When done properly, in a systematic approach, it is one of the most beneficial things an adolescent can undertake

In today’s society, where technology, social media, and a sedentary lifestyle reign supreme - resistance training and teaching proper movement patterns within the younger populations is at a severe low. The “Active Healthy Kids Australia Report Card” found that only 19% of kids aged 5-17yrs were meeting their daily physical activity requirements

It’s not due to a lack of trying however, it’s due to a lack of support, guidance, and an overall opportunity to do so

When it comes to training adolescents; technique, safety, education, and patience are key. For instance, one of our rules is that nobody touches a barbell until they're at least 14 years of age and can demonstrate great body control and technique in certain movements. It needs to be considered that growth is still occurring, and many are not used to proper movement patterns or the ‘feeling’ of their bodies being in certain positions that they should be. So this becomes the main intention - to educate, build the foundational movement patterns, have them 'feel' what their bodies are doing, and ultimately build confidence and have fun

When it comes to what to do, it really is simple. People want to over-complicate things and make them appear ‘sexier’ than they have to be - and this adds to the reason people are shying adolescents away from this sort of activity - there is no common sense to the approach

In the simplest forms, the human body can perform six different primal patterns - all of which adolescents should be educated on, become very familiar with, and progress through a basic range of movements, with varying difficulties. These six primal movement patterns include:

#1. Push (Upper Body or Lower Body): this includes pushing something away from the body, either horizontally or vertically

Above and below are the same movement patterns (the squat), yet the difficulty and progression comes from the apparatus used, and the load on the athlete. Above, we have Cam during his second week at The Academy - ingraining the movement pattern with a small amount of load. And below we have Aph, for who the movement has now become automatic, performing a more 'complex' form of the same basic squat movement pattern

Above and below are the same movement patterns (the squat), yet the difficulty and progression comes from the apparatus used, and the load on the athlete. Above, we have Cam during his second week at The Academy - ingraining the movement pattern with a small amount of load. And below we have Aph, for who the movement has now become automatic, performing a more 'complex' form of the same basic squat movement pattern

#2. Pull (Upper Body): involving pulling something toward the body, either horizontally or vertically

#3. Squat (Lower Body): the foundational movement for most things we do in life, as it’s the act of standing from a sitting position

#4. Hinge (full body): another foundational movement, this involves picking something up off the floor with your back NOT looking like the Sydney Harbour Bridge

#5. Carry - think carrying the groceries to the car, to giving something a bear hug, to having to move something whilst it’s positioned overhead

#6. Rotate - as simple as taking something from our right side, and moving it to our left without any movement in the feet

Seriously, that's it at its foundational core. They're the foundations for all movement we do. The complexity can creep in when the 'type' of exercise is picked, and a 'load' is added to the movement pattern - and this is where danger may come in if not programmed or coached correctly

And that's why The Academy created its “Graduation” System. So that everyone, regardless of experience and level, can perform these basic primal movements, and progress on to more complex one’s with time and experience. Be it our national level Gymnast & Hammer Thrower, to our NDIS clients and general health kids - they all squat, pull, push, carry, and hinge - some just perform 'simpler' variations until they meet certain strength and technique points, upon which they progress to the next “level” or 'difficult' variation of the movement

It’s all about education, empowerment, and progress - whilst heavily focusing on technique and safety

Please, don’t be scared of resistance training when it comes to adolescents, as the benefits far outweigh the risks - especially when conducted under experienced and watchful eyes, in a controlled environment, and with a systematic appraoch

TrainingNick Maier