Coaching a 13 year old from zero to stronger

The general consensus from the public

Now before i begin there are somethings i need to clear up.
I generally don’t coach a lot of under 16’s as they are just at the age where lifting isn’t something that appeals to the youth of today. Most of my nephews/cousins are either playing xbox on the weekend or in front of a box that flashes lights of some sort.  
There is also that old myth from parents that lifting before puberty stunts growth and causes damage to the young body due the lifts being dangerous if done incorrectly.
There have been studies** done to disapprove these myths. Im sure a game of soccer at that age is more dangerous physically than lifting due to sprained ankles/bad ball contests/tackles etc.
 In a nut shell if they are supervised while lifting then there is no reason why u cant. This blog isn’t about discussing that but to show one way of safely teaching them to lift yourself.

The Lanky Quiet Kid

Raymond brought in his little brother Matty whom was 13 years old 5’8 and 59kg lanky kid who was shy on his first day at the gym. Ray wanted his little brother to have a good head start in life in terms of sporting and fitness.
I mentioned we can give this a crack and see how if he committs as most kids at 13 have very short attention spans and do not listen to instructions.   
Chris moons an excellent coach who does all the technique assessments for all new members at Ptc Sydney spent a good amount of time with Matty trying to get him to Squat/bench/deadlift (I think deadlift was the only one that was passable from memory)
The end of that Chris advised it was a good idea to get him to do Goblet squats and bodyweight pushups for a few weeks till he got better.

The Journey begins

Weeks 1-6
Coaching children is always a challenge as most do not listen or remember cues very well. Chest up and Knees out might be repeated over 50 times in one session.
Customized 5x5 program
Squats - replaced with a 12kg goblet squats to a 25cm box.
Bench – Replaced with bodyweight pushups
Deadlift – Had the issue of stiff legging it (once again numerous cues)
Barbell Rows – Replaced with Cable pull-downs with a wide bar
Dips – Replace with cable triceps pull downs with a V bar
3 training full body sessions a week.

Week 7 Re-Assessment
Squats – Progressed up to 30kg kb’s without knees caving in and also not on his toes.
Bench –Dumbbell pressing 2x12kg for reps once he could get out 5x5 of bodyweight press
Deadlift – 60kg but less Stiff legging it.
Barbell Rows – Hamstrings and now remembers to use arms/back not lower back while rowing 40kg
Dips – Still couldn't do body weight yet but Worked up to 30kg triceps pull downs on the cable machine.
Progressing well.

Week 8-18
Squats – Are now with weight on the barbell minus box
Bench – Can keep the arch and knows to not move feet around.  30kgs 5x5
Deadlift – 90kgx1 was the best at the end of this period and 80% better form.
Dips – Managed 3 with bodyweight then did banded assists after failure to get 10 reps.
Strength and bodyweight (10kg) were also up. So was his self esteem. Would roam around the gym doing the program without much questions.
Throw in UDL's as well for assistance if they can handle the volume.

Competing? Really?

I asked Matty if he was interested in competing at the recent redemption 3 lift comp. He was reluctant at first but was pretty keen once he saw some videos of previous competitions and his brother encouraging him.
Below are his first comp lifts. He turned 14 that week of the comp.

- 97.5kg Squat (made the squat but didn’t listen to the squat command)
- Bench 50k
- Deadlift 100kg (had more in the tank)

Now these lifts don’t seem that heavy to many of us adults but here is something to think about. How much were YOU lifting at 13 if at all?

Just remember that patience and persistence is the key no matter how many times u have to repeat something.


Trent Nguyen

**http://www.nsca-lift.org/Publications/YouthResistanceTrainingUpdatedPosition2.pdf