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  • Writer's pictureJason St Clair Newman

6 recommendations for a Youth Resistance Program (parents should consider)

One of the most asked questions I get when training youth athletes (for the record I consider youth age group range between 13-18)

"what do I do?"

It's a tough question because everyone is unique has different backgrounds, and is at different levels of maturity.

However here are 6 recommendations that I stand by.

#1 Using your bodyweight

  • Being able to handle your own body weight is for me a key aspect of future development.

  • It gives you good body awareness, and a foundation to build off.

  • It costs nothing because you don't need any equipment or a gym membership

  • It builds a good base of strength in important areas like tendons and ligaments

  • Here is an example of a balanced bodyweight programme

  1. Body weight Multi-directional Lunge 1 x each side 3 different arm movements

  2. Body weight chin up 1 x 6+ (I like to see 10+)

  3. Body weight Handstand against a wall 1 x 3-6 (5-10sec holds)

  4. Body weight Single Leg Deadlift 1 x 10 each leg

  5. Body Weight Inverted row 1 x 10

  6. Body Weight Push Up 1 x 30

  7. Hanging Knee Raise 1 x 6-20

Why is this session so good?

It covers all the muscle groups, challenges balance, challenges the athlete through different planes of motion and requires next to no equipment (you can use a playground bar for chin-ups and inverted rows)

#2 Earn the right

Before setting out on a gym programme, I personally believe the athlete needs to earn the right to be able to use added resistance.

My philosophy is an athlete (on all levels) needs to be able to perform the basics before they get the right to move to the next level of exercise.

I have some set targets I like youth athletes to be able to do before we start a more structured programme, it lets me know there is at least a base level of strength there we can build upon.


10 Chin Ups (I may change this depending on athlete size)

30 Push Ups - hands under shoulders

20 Squats to parallel in 20sec with hands behind head using good form

Be able to perform 5-6 reps per leg of a step forward lunge with good form

6 x 5sec Inverted row holds (isometrics) - chest touching the bar straight legs

60sec plank

60sec side plank (each side)

I also like to know they can do simple things like hop on one leg while travelling in different directions, be able to rope skip for time (usually 60sec) and be able to display good single-leg balance.

If an athlete can do well on these targets I feel they will be ready to handle a more structured resistance programme.

#3 Throwing things... really high, far or at someone

Who doesn't like throwing things right?

One of my most used implements is the medicine ball, I use it in all my field sessions and a lot within programmes from adults down to kids.


You can use it as resistance, you can throw it, catch it and throw it again, run after it, throw it high, far to someone else...

The list goes on.

There are literally hundreds of different movements you can use with a medicine ball by oneself or with a partner, the great thing is they are really great in developing strength, strength endurance and explosiveness depending on what you do and your level. They also don't restrict you to a certain pattern of movement.

Med balls are also a great way to see improvement, get the tape measure out and see how far you throw. Over time this can show the athlete how they are improving (although don't fool yourself, the fact they are growing will also contribute to this).

Did I mention they are FUN?

#4 Don't copy Youtube meatheads!

Just because they are in shape doesn't mean they actually know what they are talking about, especially when it comes to the nuances of adolescent development.

One of my real worries as I write this is the number of players I have had come to me across different age groups saying they use exercises off YouTube they have seen.

While there is a lot of great info on Youtube, it's more a case of knowing what is actually good or not, who the people are who actually know what they are talking about and whether what they are doing is even appropriate for you... So please don't just copy.

Some great channels to keep an eye on for youth training are

  1. Circle Athletics - My own channel with exercise techniques for various exercises I use, I also have a number of bodyweight circuits on there

  2. Excelsior Athletic Development - Coach James Marshall

  3. Jeremy Frisch on Twitter @JeremyFrisch

  4. WannaTeachPE on Twitter @WannaTeachPE

#5 Compete with yourself

When Youth athletes start to actually train in a gym environment, it can be tough and there are a lot of egos... I've seen this first hand.

However, what is key is...

This is about you - not what your friend did today, yesterday or last week.

Everyone is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses so don't get caught up comparing yourself to where others are right now and where you are.

Younger athletes develop at different speeds, and because of everyone's varied backgrounds will have different levels of strength, endurance mobility and

balance for example.

At the pro level in rugby, I have seen players who are incredibly strong in the gym but aren't in the starting 15 and sometimes not even on the bench.

While being strong and powerful can be an advantage it's not the be-all and end-all.

By all means, push yourself to be better and improve, but that competition should be with yourself and should be about being the best you can be not where someone else is or doing..., especially at the youth level.

#6 Avoid getting hurt in the gym

Often times parents are worried about youth athletes getting injured when doing resistance training. This is often unfounded however there are some key things that should be considered.

  1. Are they being supervised by a coach versed in good lifting techniques?

  2. Are they using weight appropriate for their age and level?

  3. Are they using the good technique? - (technique should never be sacrificed for weight... end of discussion)

  4. Are there no distractions while they are lifting/moving

  5. Where are they in their physical development, have they gone through the growth spurt already or are in it now? - if they are in their growth spurt this isn't a time to go hard out and lift heavy, maintain work on strength, balance and range of motion.

  6. Is the environment and equipment safe and in good condition?

I will say this, break those rules and the risk of injury does go up!

Sum up

Ultimately to sum up very quickly

Progress slowly,

under qualified and knowledgable instruction,

at your own pace,

using an excellent technique,

while having fun.

Youth athletes have a lot of time to progress with many days and hours ahead of them in their sports. The Number one attribute I feel is the key is consistency and variety in their movement, as they mature they can specialise more into their sports and

the needs of those sports.

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