Youth Training Myth Busting #2 – “They Need the Same Training As Adults, Just Lighter”

Posted: July 23, 2014 by dannytwoguns in Erie Youth Conditioning and Performance

In the first installment of this series, we looked at “Preserving the Growth Plates” and why that isn’t true at all.

Well this installment we look at the opposite end of the spectrum and the myth “Youth need the same training as adults, just lighter.” It may seem like it contradicts Myth #1, and it does to a certain extent but not completely. Some people actually do see the need for training in the youth population so they attempt it and they do it completely wrong because they think that the youth is just a smaller version of an adult and has the same needs as an adult does just with less load, no free weights and on a machine for some reason.

I never understood why people say kids shouldn’t lift weights and then put them on a machine and do machine leg press, machine rows, machine shoulder press etc. A machine loaded weight is essentially the same external load as free weights except you take away the integral part of having to stabilize the load away – taking out the core stabilization, part that is even more integral for the youth population. It isn’t safer as most think. It is actually infinitely less safe, the only major difference is it is far easier to teach, just sit them on the machine and push (or pull).

I once saw a “Youth Spin Class” being advertised – Same exact Spin class an adult would do except youth/children participate… We could argue that sitting on a bike that doesn’t move, training the lower body in one plane of movement, overemphasizing the already over emphasized quads/front of the leg, usually promoting bad posture and that makes your hip flexors tight is not really what an adult needs in terms of fitness and it could go either way, that is a debate for another day that I will not argue but in terms of what ages 6-12 need, it is not debatable that that is exactly what they do not need for exercise and one I will definitely argue.

Another common mistake is that people will “just have them run”/jog/low intensity high duration which does nothing but make them worse. Especially since no one takes the time to teach them how to do it correctly. More on this toward the end. But bottom line, if you train them to be slow, they will be slow. This is why cross country during the off season for an athlete is not a good idea.

The youth population needs “the same, but different” training when it comes to the proper training of the adult or teenage population, it is actually a combination of the two. It is all based on the fundamental movement patterns that good exercise progressions for adults follow but how they are implemented is not the same.

Adults (for the most part) need mobility as longevity and sedentary lifestyles have limited their mobility/flexibility. The average female needs more stability than mobility and the majority of males need a lot of mobility work (there will be outliers both ways but for the most part that is accurate) but both genders and the majority of adults need to re-establish fundamental and foundational movement skills. Something essentially everyone loses over time and work on strengthening them as well as training primarily for fat loss and muscle gain to keep them healthier, leaner and living longer.

The youth population has none of those issues with the exception of the outliers. Through natural development they have the mobility we are supposed to have and they have the foundation and fundamental movement patterns already. As they reach the higher end of the 6-12 age range, you’ll see these decrease more and more through sedentary lifestyles, sometimes through being overworked in youth sports and not enough strength, conditioning and movement development and everything shifts and changes during puberty but for the most part, mobility is there, fundamental movement patterning is there in the youth population.


We don’t develop proper movement as we age, we lose what we already have.

But they lack stability, motor control and neuromuscular control and patterning. They need a training protocol based around those things. They need a training protocol that prepares them for what they are going to encounter growing up, which is likely some form of youth sports and hopefully some movement. They also need a foundation in which the rest of their life can be built upon. Learning how to move well and move often as early as possible will keep you far healthier and stronger for the rest of your life rather than getting into responsible training in your adult life and having to work on getting that foundation built then.

What does this mean?

– No machines. They need to be able to stabilize their bodies as they go through movements.

– They need to squat, hinge, push, pull, rotate and do things on one leg – and get a perfection movement foundation and strong at doing all of those. Sometimes with added weight (if this rubs you the wrong way refer back to the Growth Plates post above).

– What they do needs to be engaging and fun. Adults can stay occupied with certain things a lot longer than the youth population can. This is completely obvious until it comes to actual application and “youth fitness” expects a 10 year old to ride a stationary bike for 45 minutes… Movement skill development and fun can easily go hand in hand with certain games and fun competitive environments.

– They need direct and specific injury prevention techniques, specifically ACL strengthening, especially in females.

– They need to learn how to move properly and most importantly, run properly. And they need to be sprinting more and doing little to no jogging/endurance running that all youth programs seem to default to.

Most people do not know how to sprint and run properly because 99% of the people you see jogging aren’t doing it right. My opinion is that they never learned how to sprint, they just started jogging one day because it was easy and free but don’t actually know how to do it because they never learned. Also that they do not move well enough or are strong enough to be able to do it.

A few examples of bad running…

Youth Bad Runner

Very flexion/bad posture based foundation that promotes poor movement, underemphasizes the glutes and leads to pain.

Youth Running Posture

Over extended/excessive extension putting too much emphasis on the lower back

Another example, which I don’t have a picture of which is very common in females is when they are moving the shoulders rotationally like a bad dance move while not actually moving them front to back and constantly performing what looks like a torso twist. This jacks up the lower back and leaks energy all over causing overuse of the lower body. Running is meant to move you forward not side to side (though we should train that also) or up and down.

What should it look like?

Martin Rooney Sprint

Good tall posture, neutral lower back, strong stride, very importantly – opposite patterns from the arms moving front to back in opposition to the legs. It isn’t just lower body, it is total body. And it isn’t meant to low intensity, low duration – it is meant for short but intense bouts of power. Sprint more, jog less.

– Lastly, they need to move 3-dimensionally. This really goes for all ages groups and populations but it is incredibly importantly in the youth. They move in all directions, in all ways in everything they do, so why train simply front to back and up and down. Training the frontal plane (sideways movement) and the transverse plane (rotational movement) is imperative. Just because it is harder to teach and learn doesn’t meant it should be avoided, it means you need expert guidance to show you right way.

That is all for this installment of Youth Training Myth Busting. If you would like further information on anything you read here or you would be interested in our trial for Erie Youth Conditioning and Performance, feel free to leave me a message over on Facebook and I’ll answer as quickly as I can. Hope you enjoyed the read.


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