When I first meet with a high school athlete in our Palo Alto gym, I always check for movement quality and how well they can handle weight training. Personal training for the high school athlete should focus on 4 main concepts: safety, movement quality, joint stability, and beginner strength development.
Some kids come in with zero weight training experience while some had weight training classes or coaching. Unless the athlete had a personal trainer or coach proficient in high school weight training, chances are they were given a brief demonstration and then sent off on their own. Often, we have to fix terrible form which left unchecked can lead to major muscle imbalances and injury.
Weight training safety is common sense, but it still needs to be taught. We always teach proper set up and the handling of weights.
The basics are extremely important. If an athlete cannot do a proper body weight squat, then there is no sense in loading that kid up with 225lbs on their back for squats. Kids squatting heavy weights with bad form may sound ridiculous, but it is done surprisingly often. Sometimes athletes will want to get stronger regardless of form. Indeed they will, but it will set them up for dysfunction or injury in the following years. Kids need to nail the basics like bodyweight squats, pushups, various hip hinges, and basic movement patterns to get the most out of weighted exercises. Another key component is learning how to preserve good posture in all movements. In particular maintaining spinal alignment through sufficient abdominal or “core” strength.
Kids will find it hard to control weights when they first start. It is important to teach them how to maintain smooth and stable reps throughout every exercise. This means the right choice of exercises and challenging them with less stable ones to improve this. We would work simple, yet challenging exercise like single leg squats, ball pushups, and plank series in addition to learning the traditional exercises.
Beginner strength development
Once the high school athlete can perform the basics with good form, we then begin a more traditional strength development program. They have in fact become stronger already by learning the foundational exercises. Strength development starts with added weight while performing smooth reps with good form. Often a slow eccentric (“negative” portion of the rep) tempo is recommended as this is often where people are the weakest and where form falls apart.
Properly training the high school athlete is much more than just getting them to be able to squat or bench a certain weight. It means correcting any faults and improving their strength so they can then apply that strength out on the field, court, track, or mat. Once base strength is established, we can then add in more specific exercises that will help improve performance for their sport. Strength demonstrated with good form in the weight room means the athlete has the improved physical ability to run faster, cut quicker, jump higher, swing better, and throw farther.
Interested in improving strength for high school sports? Come set up a free session with us to see how we can help high school athletes get started the right way.
Jerry Yuhara, CPT, CSCS, CMT #75123
299 California Ave, Suite 120
Palo Alto, CA 94306
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