Training for Youth

By Will Kuenzel

*For this article I’m going to talk about youth athletes under the age of 15.

Ahhh, to be young again. So much energy curiosity. I miss that youthful enthusiasm. Everything was new, and everything was fun.  What I am thankful for as an adult is the attention span to do repetitive activities. Kids can be a bit more easily distracted, but then again, so can adults when they’re on their phones between sets.  Strength training for youth isn’t quite the same as strength training when we’re older.  Kids don’t have the coordination that adults do. As mentioned, they also don’t have the attention span.  Activities need to be a bit faster paced and with much more immediate type reward.  It is better to use certain actions that can be quick and give immediate feedback.

Bear crawl:

Just overall coordination is required for this.  Core/abs and upper body come into play so that the position can be maintained.  I will generally have kids do this both forward and sideways.  Distances can range anywhere from 10-30 yards.  As they progress with this, it can either evolve into sled pushes or even dragging a sled behind them.

Crab walk:

This one is a bit more difficult.  It generally tends to require more posterior chain to help keep the hips elevated. It’s also good for shoulder health with the position of the arms.  I like to see kids be able to do this one backward and forwards.  I do try to keep them from scooting on their butts.  They must keep the hips up, and I push to have them have in almost a tabletop position.  For those that are especially good, I will put a med ball on their hips and have them stabilize / carry that.

Frog hops:

Just simple broad jumps. Helps to learn control, landing, and coordination.  It’s common to see them stumble, jump off one foot, or fall when they land.  These are all acceptable.  Remember, it’s all about making it fun while still challenging.

Med ball throws:

Chest pass (either standing or kneeling), granny style, side rotations or hip tosses, etc.  I’ll have them throw it at me in as many different styles as possible.  It gives them a bit of added motivation when I tell them to throw at me.  The harder and faster the better.  They can do it with a step and throw or without a step.

These are a few of the things along with planks and bird dogs that I will use when training kids under the age of 15.  All are fast-paced and force the kids to push a bit outside of their comfort zone.  I will still incorporate the beginnings of squat and lunge mechanics, but without really loading them just yet.  I want to see proper mechanics and technique before having youth athletes start any load bearing activities.  It’s not to say that I haven’t had anyone under the age of 15 squat with a weighted bar, but it’s few and far between. The ones that have are the ones that have been training with me for some time before getting to that point.

Youth activities are a bit different, but so are kids.  Broader movements that help them understand how their growing bodies are starting to move are going to have the best payoff.  These are also exercises that can be timed, or used as races when there are multiple kids, or even take the chance as a coach and jump in and participate.   When more people take part, the kids have more fun. More fun means they’ll try harder. A little friendly competition goes a long way.  I’m not above being embarrassed by a 12-year-old girl.  It doesn’t happen often, but the look on their face when it does is well worth it.  Be young and have fun!

To read more from Will and to follow his gym’s training, check out the Low County Strength Blog and if you’re interested in learning more about the tools needed to increase your athleticism, resiliency and performance, be sure to grab your Book Bundle of Back Mechanic, 10/20/Life 2nd Edition and Gift of Injury.

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Low Country Strength

Low Country Strength

Will Kuenzel is the owner of Lowcountry Strength ( in Charleston, SC. Will started his athletic endeavors as a pole vault; finishing up his collegiate career with a best vault of 16’9” at a whopping 160lbs. He the track and field world to pursue bodybuilding, his first show in 2005, he won 1st place in Men’s Novice as a middle weight. One year later he took 2nd as a Men’s Junior heavy weight. Since 2007 he has been a competitive powerlifter and totaling elite as a 220lber. His best lifts in multiply equipment are a 710lbs squat, a 605lbs bench press, a 615lbs deadlift and a 1930 total. In 2008 Will started Lowcountry Strength out of his garage. Since then it has moved into a 16,000 sq/ft facility and shares space with a mixed martial arts studio. With all disciplines of powerlifting, strongman, MMA, jiu jitsu and other sports in the Charleston area getting trained under one roof, Will heads up the strength and conditioning for a wide variety of athletes and clients.
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