Strength training and conditioning can be started once the athlete is capable of understanding and learning how to do it properly. (There is a blog post from a few weeks ago that speaks on this very subject.) However, there are adjustments and modifications that should be made with an athlete, depending on their age.

We have many athletes that come into our facility here at Compete that span across all ages. They can start all the way from the age of 6, all the way up to our adult fitness classes. Just because an athlete is young does not mean that they are not yet capable of learning the proper techniques necessary in various strength training exercises. However, this often can be on a case by case basis and is up to the discretion of the coach that is training them. Sometimes one may stumble across a young athlete that is highly mature and coordinated for their age, or it can be just the opposite. However, this maturity and coordination level can be a good telltale sign for strength coaches to determine what modifications are necessary for the athlete in question.

In regard to how a younger athlete should train, their training can and should include higher reps and lower weight. If they are especially young and uncoordinated, start them off with mainly body weight exercises, and then as they progress move them into light weights. It is highly important to start off with emphasizing proper form and thought processes behind why the exercises are necessary. This will help the athlete to develop the right mentality and proper techniques moving forward in their training program. Furthermore, the athlete should start off with basic, functional exercises and slowly progress into more complex exercises. (Think: a Romanian deadlift with a cone to an RDL with a kettle bell to an RDL with a row incorporated in.)

This discernment of modification based on age and experience develops over time for many trainers and strength coaches. The more experience that is gained training a variety of different age groups, the easier it becomes to modify based on age and experience. Over time, strength coaches will find that they are able to figure this out more quickly over time.

Taylor Rowden is a Strength Coach at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest, California. Taylor graduated from the Master’s University with a degree in Kiniesiology with an emphasis on sports injury and exercise science. She was also a member of the Women’s Soccer Team.