This is particularly true if the parent, and perhaps an older sibling, trains at home. Christi would spend the time drawing at my desk, and later enjoy a protein milkshake at the dairy bar. Bart, on the other hand, liked to watch the lifters. When he was four years old, he would walk out on the platform after everyone had finished and moved to the showers and mimic my technique on the clean and jerk perfectly. Tommy Suggs told me about it and that it was uncanny how he matched my every move, from chalking up to planting my feet, and so on until the weight was secured overhead.
Kids can do that amazingly well when they want to, and when they have a model to copy. Keep in mind that gymnasts and figure skaters often begin their rather intense training when they are just five or six years old, and children that age also take part in competitive sports which involve a large amount of contact: pee-wee football, soccer, hockey, and baseball.
Yes, baseball can have a great deal of body-to-body contact and baseballs can cause a lot of damage, as anyone who has ever played the sport can testify. And, as I mentioned last month, the Europeans, who have assembled almost all of the data that we have available about training youngsters, are not the least bit apprehensive about starting young athletes on some sort of strength routine. As long as safety is the number one priority, there will be no problem with health issues.
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Supervision means safety. And of course, teaching the youngsters how to do every exercise perfectly. This should be done with beginners at any age, but is doubly critical for the younger set.
I once wrote that allowing a youngster to train alone was an invitation to disaster and compared it to letting him have free access to the gun locker. That be a bit of an exaggeration, but it makes my point. While they were the same age, they possessed vastly different physiques and mental maturity. Andy was large for his age and quite smart. Rudy was just the opposite in both categories.
I taught them the Big Three, emphasizing the fact that I wanted them to master the form on all the lifts, plus the auxiliary ones I added after a couple of weeks, before moving the weights much higher. If they did a set of squats with for five reps flawlessly, then they could add weight next time around. Andy weighed close to lbs. There was yet another major difference between the two.
Andy did everything I told him, and Rudy often wanted to do an exercise in his own way.
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Mostly, Rudy wanted to try to handle the same weights as his friend, although he was giving away seventy pounds of bodyweight. I set the training start time at 4 p. If they got there early they could do back hypers and sit-ups or legs raises, but they had to wait till I arrived before they did any lifting. Which was fine with me. One less to deal with.
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I was wrong. One afternoon, I got there about an hour early. I had a dental appointment later on. Andy lived across the street so I could go get him. When I stepped in the shed, I saw that Rudy had on the bar and was doing what appeared to be a half-squat and was using some very ugly form. Knees buckled in, back rounded in a curve, with his feet improperly set. As he started down, I dropped my gym bag and hurried to take the bar off his back.
Too late. He collapsed like a rag doll onto the concrete floor. I jerked the bar off of him, but the damage had been done, a severely sprained back. That ended his lifting career. Had he done what I told him he would have been able, over the ensuing years, to pack on lots of muscle and eventually be strong enough to handle a great deal more that in the back squat. By taking matters into his own inexperienced hands, he blew the whole deal. Any freelancing at this stage is not acceptable. The first thing that I teach, and perhaps the hardest, is discipline. Since most youngsters that I encounter have been instilled with very little of this attribute, this takes patience on the part of the instructor.
But he must never give in to their complaints. Once the small points are learned and done correctly, all the rest follows almost magically. While I taught myself the basics of weight training, out of necessity, I fully understand how to teach someone a new skill because I recall how Donald taught me. Donald, my brother four years my senior, patiently walked me through the basics for football, baseball, softball, and basketball.
I learned how to grip a bat, the proper way to shoot a foul shot, how to throw a football correctly, and how to tag a runner and make the pivot at second base for a double play. These things I had to do over and over before he would allow me to move on to the next skill.
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When I taught myself how to do the various lifts in my weight program, I utilized those same methods and found them most beneficial when it came to teaching others how to lift weights. Whenever a youngster learns how to do all the fundamental things right, the rest comes much easier.
For the most part, I make them focus on the starting positions for all of the movements. If the start is wrong what follows will not be correct either, and this will adversely affect the outcome of the exercise.
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The biggest mistake youngsters tend to make is to just step up to the bar for a power clean, grab the bar, and pull. They need to take the time to make certain their grip is exact and that their feet are placed where they should be, and their frontal deltoids are slightly in front of the bar.
In the bench or overhead press, care must be taken to select the right grip for that lift before anything else. With the back squat, the feet also have to be aligned perfectly and the bar fixed in the proper position. I do not think that weight training can be considered fun in the same way that playing sports is fun. Being able to handle more weight in the squat or power clean is most satisfying and several good sessions in a row makes a youngster anxious to get back in the weight room. But regimentation is necessary, and the young athlete needs to know that if he wants to make improvement, he has to take his training seriously.
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For pre-teens, I much prefer those sports which enhance flexibility and body control over the contact sports. Wrestling, gymnastics, and any of the martial arts fit into this long-range scheme perfectly. Coupled with weight workouts these sports will help him to develop into a finer overall athlete, and this is really the purpose behind getting into the weight room.
With this thought in mind, the exercises selected for a youngster should be designed so that they enhance athletic attributes as he improves his overall strength. And as soon as possible, I like to introduce youngsters to the Olympic lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk.
Not at all. They take to the quick lifts like ducks to water because they possess skills that enable them to do the lifts rather quickly. They are fast of foot and are extremely flexible so moving under and locking out a snatch is as simple as walking. They have absolutely no trouble racking a clean across their shoulders or going very deep into a clean.
The jerk also comes easy for most of them. First, the foundation has to be established and form perfected. They start right in on the Olympic lifts, and plenty of squats and other overhead work. Plus, many former Olympic lifters in our country have started their kids out with the snatch and clean and jerk, and it has worked out very well. Just make sure you know how to teach a youngster how to do an exercise correctly.
If not, stay with what you know. He can learn the other stuff later on. As for those European youngsters, a long-term study was conducted on them to find out how they compared with swimmers of the same age. This was a seven year experiment and at the conclusion of it, it was found that both groups displayed about the same amount of skeletal growth with absolutely no unfavorable side effects.
The weightlifting group showed positive health protecting influence and had made advantageous and functional bodily changes.