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Middle School Football & The Weight Room


My son has been playing football for many years now. He is now 13 and in his last year of playing before high school. Part of summer practice and regular season practice is weight training. This brings me to my question. For a boy that is just starting puberty and still growing, what are the do's and don'ts for him in the weight room.

I know what works for me and what this 33 year old body can take. But when it comes to first introductions to weight training at that age I am clueless. I would assume just the power moves with light weight to teach form, timing, balance, etc. I want to make sure that my son is not part of the group of idiots in a weight room screwing off with no clue of what they are doing and gets hurt. Please shed some light....


13 is actually old enough to properly work out. As an absolute beginner I'd have him max out all the major lifts and train with 50% for moderate high reps ( 10-12).

Regarding safety:
-DO warm up extensively, so have him run a few laps or work with the prowler prior to hitting the iron.
-DON'T believe in the myth that weight training stunts growth- it doesn't!!!
-DO check his regimen, since my high school coach had us doing mainly a bench/curl/push press/db press/dips routine with 2 sets of pulldowns and t-bar rows thrown in for good measure.
What I mean is, make sure that his routine has more pulling than pushing movements and really builds up his posterior chain.

Apart from that, all "adult" rules apply to him in the weight room and he's good to go!


Thanks. There are so many different contradictions out there as to whether or not it stunts growth. Event he pediatrician gave a vague answer which teetered on "I don't know". Would have rather he just said that. Luckily I have a full olympic set and DB up to 55 lbs in the garage so I can teach him everything correctly. The coaches in the weight room are not something I want to rely on.


Good call. I haven't seen a high school coach that knows anything about weightlifting.


that's awesome man. wish my pops had got me lifting when i was 13.

x2 what dre said about double checking his routine. a lot of highschool lifting programs are flawed.

that being said, you have crazy sick delts man! good job.


Just get him under the bar. Try to guide him the right way. If he does not like it....then he does not like it.

If he learns form fast and early then start going heavy.

I wish I would have started at 13.

He is going to grow like a weed regardless but teaching him about the importance of a good diet would not be a bad idea.


According to Brian Grasso, a leading expert in the field of youth training, weight training in adolescents and pre-pubescent children DOES NOT stunt growth, IF: 1) The exercise techniques are taught properly and strictly reinforced, and 2) If the weight is low enough such that the reps are kept in the hypertrophy range. He says that if these two guidelines are followed weight training can actually INCREASE growth.

He also strongly cautions, to say the least, against using machines for children, or any healthy individual for that matter, because it locks our body into a set motion that is often times unnatural, as well as it does not allow for proper training of stabilizer muscles. This is particularly important in youth training because when athletes are only beginning to learn how to move with proper mechanics and train their body to use correct muscle synergies, anything that forces the athlete to move outside of these proper mechanics is simply detrimental.

Get big or die tryin'.

Charlie Cates, CPT
Self Made




Great advice. If I may add, I think I heard it from Avery Faigenbaum, but 12-14 year olds can train with up to 75% of 1RM using 6 reps.

Cannot emphasize correct form, and keep the overall program simple.


Me being 16, I can tell from experience that you shouldn't worry about what and what not he can take at that age. I started lifting at 13 too, and after my the initial period of making sure my form was good, I started training heavy (or as heavy as you can train at 13), often maxing out on the big 3 lifts, and I'm 5'11" and probably still have a few inches to go.

Also, make sure you are a role model. I had to find out most things from trial and error, and not only does that suck for your ego, it hinders progress aswell. And you're 100% right about not trusting high school coaches.


Everything here sounds good to me. At his age he should be learning the form of the power clean, front squat, deadlift, and other movements he will need later on.

Lifting heavy has a low chance of benefit and high chance of injury at his age. In a year or two, if he knows what he's doing, he'll be ready to start packing pounds to the bar.


I started lifting when I was 12 and I'm 14 now and 6'1". Have your son do back squat, deadlift, bench shoulder press, rows, and power cleans. Start of light and slowly progress.


Your son is going to be a real athlete if he starts training at a age such as his. I agree with Holy wish I had my pops show me the ropes of the gym, however it's the other way around lol. He showed me how to fix/diagnose cars witch is a plus.

Try to focus a lot on proper nutrition with him as well. If he learns/gets in a habit of eating proper foods now, chances are it will carry on with him to his older years.


The only thing that can stunt growth that is related to weight training is crippling injuries.

But those can just easily, if not more easily occur in football/any other sport of physical activity.


It's great to hear a dad who has his kid into training at that age, especially for football. I'm a senior in highschool and i started training for football a year and a half ago, HUGE difference, definitely makes the game play more fun, and the chicks love it ; P


I agree with the research and think that stayin in the hypertrophy range is the smartest way to go. 1-3 rep maxes in any of the main lifts, seems to have too much risk/reward. At my facility, alot of our older high school guys have their younger brothers come to the gym. We usually start them with nothing but body weight exercises, pushups, chins, bodyweight squats, with a major focus on the PC- back extensions, single leg bucks, ghr's (if possible).

the great thing about these athletes is they recover so quickly. we usually do a cycle of a total body workout, 3x a week for 3 weeks. we also include prowlers, sled pushes/pulls, and sandbag carries. we try to develop as much overall body strength with their own weight as possible, to give a good foundation for weights. we also put a lot of focuse on stabilization in the core.

if at that point they can perform x amount of pushups relative to their body weight, a few chinups, and has demonstrated that they have a sound core/posterior chain.. we move on to weights, dumbbells mostly to develop the stabilizer muscles..and we use bands in alot of our exercises..

hope this helps


Hey! Thanks everybody for all the feedback. I am going to start working with him on Monday. He has to get his 20 workout requirement in at the field house if he wants to have his name on the back of his jersey so I need to get moving. Thanks again for all the input.



As someone who goes to highschool and is still young but nonetheless has had some sort of life experience. Don't let him do heavy tripples, doubles or singles continuously. I know that alot of people who believe in MAx Effort are gonna flame me, but seriously, at that age he can still do 5RM and call it a Max Effort.That's just my .02


As far as weights go, the main thing docs and researchers are worried about is damaging the growth plates. That being said, I highly doubt any 13 year old is strong enough to move that kind of weight. For good measure, however, stay in the hypertrophy range the vast majority of the time, but it's ok the use max effort weights as long as it's not too often. The advice in above posts is all real good stuff. Good luck!


I started weight training at 12. Just be sure to check his weightlifting routine.