T Nation

My Kid

I have a 13 yr old son…5’11" 155-160. He’s wants to start lifting some weights. He’s a real good natural athlete and plays baseball, basketball and some soccer (probably last session). Looking to add some bulk and quickness and add to vert. Any help on a good workout for him would be appreciated. He has never lifted before but is actually somewhat strong for being as lean as he is…

Thanks in advance.

If you have money to spend on his training, find a local Weightlifting Coach (Olympic Style), who can teach him the right technique for all of the things in something like this:
http://www.defrancostraining.com/ask_joe/archives/ask_joe_03-10-10.htm
Have the coach take him through the six week program before making further decisions.

Other people will suggest Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, but if you are doing defranco’s verticle training, you could have him simply do pushups (or bench press) and chinups three times a week in a similar 3x5 scheme.

At the age of 13, it is brilliant that he starts weightlifting so early: just remember injury prevention is the most important thing when first beginning weightlifting, if beginning at any age. That’s why I suggested the coach.

Other than things like Power Cleans, and extra hamstring work, his sprinting speed will correlate to his sprinting technique and his sprinting training. Keep it short, like 60m, 80m, 100m, 120m dashes on both grass and hard track.

If you want him to bulk up, remember he is very young, and that without proper hormones that come with age he may find it hard. Train him to get strong and fast, and he will bulk up easily later in life by eating more protein, fats and carbs.

Flexibility is a plus for all athletes. Whilst he is young have him stretch his hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.

There’s a good article on increasing vert, just use the search engine. I would be one of the ones to reccomend starting off with a 5x5 program for the first few months if he is new to weightlifting.

With his young age enough proper nutrition and heavy weights emphasizing the basic lifts will definitely add some mass. For quickness look to sprints, intervals, metabolic workouts. There are plenty of articles on here to satisfy all of your needs. Congrats on getting him started out young.

There are special considerations that need to be made for a young athlete. Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded that a young athlete can be trained in a manner similar to an older teen (17/18) or adult. Heavy weights are NOT adviseable. However, the definition of “Heavy” is a bit different as well—I’m not saying he should stick to rep ranges of 20+ or anything.

The following is an old post that I put on the subject from a couple years ago…I was too lazy to write a whole new one :).


This is a very interesting topic.

The Soviets did numerous studies, and had State wide data collection on their athletic youths. They tended to introduce weight training to kids who were 11-12 years old. Any younger than that, and all their training was games, tumbling (rolls, gymnastic stuff), jumping, sports, and calisthenics.

[b]Most recommendations are to limit heavy weight training to people older than 15.[/b]

According to Thomas Kurz and studies by Sulmitsev/Krumm…

Youths 11-12 years old can use weights up to 30% of their bodyweight

Youths 13-14 can use weights up to 50% of their bw.

Youths 15-16 can use weights up to 100% of their bodyweight.

Regardless of age, maximal strength exercises and great intensity lifts were not allowed until the development of the long bones had been completed ~= 17 years of age.

The Soviets’ State wide programs and studies also came to the conclusion that children 11 year or under should only use weights that they could do 13-15 reps with.[/u] And especially that children should develop their power and strength by running, jumping, throwing, tumbling, and NOT heavy external weights. This was done for a variety of reasons, but the primary one was probably for increased “motor learning”–eg. the more diverse movements you ingrain into a child while very young, the better they master new movements and their chosen sport later in life. In other words it increases their movement “vocabulary” if you will. [/u]

I personally think this advice is also applicable to youths 13-14 as well. All the way up to 18, in fact, but most important before 16. No point in cutting “vocabulary” lessons short if they want to be a great athlete.

Also, it’s worth noting that Kurz states in his book (with a number of different studies by the Soviets and other countries cited that I don’t want to reference now because I’m lazy) that in children the different athletic qualities are all tightly related.

Simply, this means that making a young child agile will make him stronger. Or that making him more coordinated will make him stronger. It’s like Zen in reverse–early on, any kind of training affects all attributes of strength speed and agility, but the more the child ages into adulthood the more independent these qualities become. You train agility, you gain endurance and strength as well. You train endurance, you actually get stronger!

An adult does not get stronger by becoming more agile. If an adult trains endurance he will get weaker, not stronger. He has to train agility to become agile. He has to be specific to the athletic quality he wants to improve, whereas a young child can do anything he wants and improve on everything at the same time.

So short answer is he can train with weights before puberty with no problem, but the best strength training for kids is that he should get involved in as many different physical activities as possible for as long as possible. Get his movement “vocabulary” as diverse as possible. Make him run and jump and tumble and throw. Use primarily bodyweight exercises like push-ups, etc. Use light weight training as a supplement to all these activities, not the mainstay.

Hope that made sense.

Another of my old posts on the same thread…

Also of note, Thomas Kurz talks about a study by Drabik in 1996.

Drabik found that “during certain periods of a person’s life, he or she will be most sensitve to exercises developing particular elements of movement coordination. These are called sensitive ages or critical periods [specific vocab depends on the author–my note]”

Table is as follows:

(quality/male sensitive age/female sensitive age)

Balance-----10 to 11, 9 to 10

Movement adequacy-----8-13 (greatest at 9-12), same for girls

Kinesthetic differentiation------ 6-7 and again at 10-11, same for girls

Reaction to signals------8-10, same

sense of rhythm (I definitely missed this boat growing up :stuck_out_tongue: ) ------- 9-10, 7-9

Spatial orientation-------- 12-14, same

Sychronization of movements------- 6-8, same

Now you can see one of many reasons the Soviets desired well-rounded activities for their very young athletes-in-training.

It should be noted that if someone ‘misses the boat’ on these critical periods, it is not really a disaster. Well, I suppose it was for my sense of rhythm :). As mentioned in my post above, during most of childhood one’s abilities are highly interrelated and so it’s not a terrible concern if he/she starts training later than these ‘critical periods’ even though it is not “perfectly optimal”.

On closing the growth plates of a kids bones:

A direct numerical comparison of the forces against the knees, growth plates, or back when a kid jumps or slides or tackles in sport, or even hops down from a fence can easily show that torque and strain on the knee joint, bone growth plates, and back can easily surpass that of free weight exercises.

But you never hear anyone say “don’t do sports Johnny, you’ll stunt your growth”. Because it isn’t true. Sustained long term exposure to high intensity or near-maximal weights might be able to close the plates–which is one reason the Soviets forbade maximal strength lifts and great intensity lifts until 17-- but transient exposure such as gymnastics or sports does not. Neither does light weight training in accordance to the Russians’ guidelines.

Ok, well hope that helped.

That was very interesting Aragorn. Thanks for bringing that back, if you find the original source post it up again.

A recent article by Faigenbaum and Polakowski also supports weight lifting by children and adolescents, stating that when qualified coaches teach the highly technical manoeuvres and lifting techniques make it almost impossible to use too much weight too soon.*

I highly recommend reading through this:
http://www.qwa.org/parents/content.asp *

Note that chance of injury doing supervised weightlifting in the UK (which is statistically higher in injuries) is practically identical to playing Basketball in the USA.

original source of what? The book I grabbed most of that info from was from Thomas Kurz’s “Science of Sports Training”. The studies I cited were in that book, or they were there but I was too lazy to dig up the bibliography…but the original thread posts were mine…the original thread I don’t remember… but I might google it later…

Lots of great stuff. I appreciate all the info.

Aragorn posted killer info. Nice, man.

[quote]vbjeff wrote:
I have a 13 yr old son…5’11" 155-160 … Looking to add some bulk and quickness and add to vert.[/quote]

Yeesh, big kid. While everything will increase a bit once he starts weight training, I’d prioritize those three for the short- to mid-term.

In the meantime, I’d start him on a bodyweight-only plan pronto:

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
Squat 2x13
Push-up 2x13
Lunge 2x13
Pull-up 2x13
Plank 2x15-count
Burpee/squat thrust 2x13

That’ll get him used to training against resistance (his own, but still), as well as get him familiar with body control, what muscles feel like when they contract and stretch, what (good) soreness feels like, etc.

Once he can handle his age in reps for each exercise (without hitting failure), jump into a basic, free weight-focused routine. I would definitely not dive into a vertical jump specialization plan, because it’s unnecessary and he’s unprepared.

Thanks for the info. They are trying to start them on a program at his school and I’ve been interrogating him about it. I told him I want a copy and that I was coming in the make sure technique is solid. I figure his vertical will rise some by just getting stronger. I like the bodyweight idea also.

I am pretty sure he can handle all those except maybe the pullups. I’d like to keep it simple and to where he doesn’t have to spend hours in the gym at a time. I think when he starts and sees some results he’ll really enjoy it. He likes competition and I think he’ll want to continue to challenge himself in the gym.

Just remember he is only 13, and although it is great he is wanting to start early, he probably shouldn’t push too hard, not saying he can’t put in alot of effort, but not lifting everyday. Squats, bench, pull-ups and light deadlifts are good for bulk, and especially important techniques for starters because I see so many people doing them improperly.

Stressing light deadlifts though because back problems at an early age is terrible( i know from experience). But for vert jump and speed, stair climbing, step ups and skipping, all excellent and safe for a young athlete. But otherwise, some very good info above. Just make sure he trains in moderation.