Should Young Athletes Focus On One Or More Sports? - Part 2

While it is important to always develop your strength and conditioning – no matter what your age, there are certain times to avoid certain activities and certain times to add them in.

Part 1  |  Part 2

In the first article, I discussed why a young athlete should not push too hard in any one sport too soon. I also discussed how it could not only inhibit progress now, but also later.

This article will focus on the magic bullet of strength training and conditioning. While it is important to always develop your strength and conditioning - no matter what your age, there are certain times to avoid certain activities and certain times to add them in.

Importance Of Proper Technique

By the way, the reason to avoid the activities I am referring to seldom has to do with it causing injury to a young athlete. The number one reason for young athletes getting injured (by far) is poor exercise technique.

Poor exercise technique can affect the young athlete in other ways too. It can cause muscular imbalances and cause the athlete to use their muscles improperly in their sport, which means the athlete will not perform at top levels, and increase the likelihood of injury even outside the weight room.

I am not writing this article for a discussion of exercise technique, I am writing it so I can help others understand how, when and what to do to get maximum benefit from their weight training and conditioning program.

Young Athletes and Weight Training.
Children training with weights have been taboo in the USA for centuries. In the following paragraphs we will look at what real world observations, as well as sports science has to say about children and weight training.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Any time an athlete or coach introduces a new stimulus into the athlete's weight training program, the athlete's body will react to it by attempting to adapt. This is usually a good thing because it causes the body to get stronger. However, often coaches will go to a clinic or meeting and get a "bunch of ideas" without any real understanding of how to implement the ideas properly.

If you are like me, you like to change your routine around periodically to:

  • Keep from getting bored.
  • Continue to make progress.

In the right hands, changing the routine is a good thing, making the athletes continually get stronger. In the wrong hands, it can cause injury to the athletes, or be unnecessary or inappropriate for the athletes they work with.

A Look At Common Practices

Perhaps the most common thing I see is the use of Olympic style lifts or their variations by high school coaches. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Olympic lifts can be very beneficial to the athletes and are not likely to injure the athlete if done properly. The key word here is properly.

Most of the athletes that do power cleans cannot do a proper deadlift or power pull, nor a proper front squat (two preliminary lifts to a power clean). How can they be doing good power cleans without being able to do a good power pull and front squat?

Proper Technique Of The Barbell Deadlift

What To Do:


What NOT To Do:

Video Guides: Windows Media - Real Player

The answer is - they can't. They are doing the power cleans WRONG!

Another question is - is the power clean even necessary for a high school athlete to optimally gain strength and power for their age and lifting experience?

In many cases - NO!

In my scenario above, the power clean is the magic bullet (exercise chosen to bring about a desired result). By incorporating it into a program too soon you limit the athletes' ability to:

  • Gain much needed muscle mass by building a strong lifting foundation.
  • Benefit from power cleans later.
  • Gain over all body strength.
  • Develop strength in weak areas.

Remember, the earlier you introduce a stimulus into a program, whether it is a sport skill, or weight training exercise, the less beneficial that stimulus will be down the road to bring about a desired benefit to the athlete.

Please do not think that I am anti-power clean, or anti-Olympic lifting. I am pro-Olympic lifting at the correct time and under the correct circumstances. Most kids are doing them without the correct background and technique coaching.

Which Of The Following Olympic Lifts Is Best For Building Mass?

Barbell Squats.
Barbell Deadlifts.
Stiff Leg Deadlifts.
Power Cleans.
Barbell Snatch.

Common Mistakes

By the way, I just used the Olympic lifts and their variations as an example. There are several advanced techniques and exercises that coaches use because they look cool and think that it will help break monotony of the regular training sessions.

Most all of these exercises and methods have validity with the right athlete at the right time. However, it is a common occurrence to see athletes doing exercises they have had no qualified coaching to perform.

Here are a couple more examples of things athletes often do without proper coaching and background:

Accommodating Resistance Using Bands Or Chains:

    A great method for advanced or late intermediate lifters (at least 2 years of training experience and at least 18 to 20 years of age), but the technique used is often poor and is often used too early in an athletes training career. This method should only be used once using traditional progression methods have ceased to work.

Supra-Maximal Eccentric Training:

Swiss Ball Training:

    Can be a useful tool in a trainee's arsenal, but over use of this implement reduces the weight an athlete can lift and keeps the body from being loaded sufficiently. This means they will not get stronger.


Keep in mind, the reason for waiting to add these methods in later is not necessarily because they are dangerous or likely to cause injury (although they might). The reason has more to do with the fact that they are unnecessary for the athlete to continue to make progress. If added too soon, they may be beneficial, but they would become a less effective stimulus for progression later on.

Also, more conservative progression systems are likely to bring about progress just as much as these methods - at least in the young athlete.

Simply Alter The Acute Exercise Variables To Bring About Progression:

  1. Exercise selection
  2. Number of sets
  3. Repetitions per set - Learn More
  4. Weight lifted or load
  5. Speed of movement - Learn More
  6. Rest period between sets and exercises - Learn More
  7. Training frequency - Learn More

I will give examples of how to alter these programs in future articles.

Part 1  |  Part 2