I received the following question this week about when to start a strength program for an 8th grader. The 8th grader just finished up basketball and is about to start track. He wants to gain size and strength for 9th grade football.
Question: Hey Scott, we’ve briefly met before. I wanted to get some info and your thoughts about working with my older son. He’s currently an 8th grader. He definitely wants to do something this summer to prepare for HS football, but we aren’t sure about now? He’s just come off basketball season and is starting high school track. Please let me know your thoughts!
Answer: Hi, Parent (name has been omitted) – thanks for reaching out!
It probably makes sense for your son to acclimate to his new track schedule first. Let his body rest for a couple of weeks, get some traction with track and then revisit the situation. My 13 year old is in the same boat as he has just started track and is also playing baseball. I’ll be talking with him about what 2-3 days a week and what times he wants to continue with his strength training. I’ve been introducing him to strength training here and there and acting as his strength coach “on call”. His strength training is purely optional – I don’t insist that he do it, he’s starting to want to do it on his own (yes!). He’s gotten to know a lot of high school athletes from the surrounding area who come out for training, hears about their successes and wants to get started himself.
The point is…I think it’s important to do proper strength and performance training year round once the athlete reaches age 13 or 14 and shows enough maturity. The intensity levels with the 13 and 14 year old’s obviously is much lower than that of the 17 – 19 year old’s. Strength training year round keeps the athlete focused, goal oriented, injury resistant, game ready, and provides confidence that they are doing everything to be the best that they can be. Plus, with my program, I include a highly personalized nutrition component.
It also allows them to be around and get to know older high school area athletes who are going to play their sport (football) at the next level (college). This is a huge confidence builder. They workout together, encourage each other and try to beat each other in everything. Regular competition, if done right, is a game changer. Year round training is my preference. I do, however, have athletes that take blocks of time off (football season) and then return afterwards. In every case, they say they wish they had continued their training, even if it’s just 1 x week to keep their weight up, strength up and their intensity levels up. Unfortunately, most athletes get weaker and smaller during the season (baseball, football, etc) unless they have 1-2 short but intense (for them) properly programmed strength training sessions. So…please take all of this under consideration and do what is best for your specific situation.
Your son’s growth is about to explode (if it hasn’t already) since he’s about to hit the prime time for growth (testosterone, growth hormone). It’s very important that he eat enough (I include nutrition as part of my program) and it can add up to a huge difference in his high school career. Most kids say “I eat a lot’ but in actuality they under eat a lot more. So I fix that and personalize a program for them to achieve optimal growth, size, power and explosiveness.
My 13 year old will be starting the weight gain process this week. We’re setting long term and short term goals. I do weekly weigh ins, provide feedback and adjust calories as needed.
I’m happy to answer more questions, address concerns if you have them. To sum up, I would say:
- take 2-3 weeks off and focus on track.
- At that point, there will be about 180 days until Sept 1st (football season). How much size, increased strength can one gain in 180 days? In a perfect situation, I would say up to 20 pounds. But, as we know, life throws us curve balls. We get sick once or twice in that time, we get injured (hopefully not) or as with a couple of clients a loved one passes away and they have to take time off to go out of town. So we’re left with 4 months instead of 6. Now we’re talking 12 lbs instead of 20 lbs. So, there you go.
- Consider starting in 2-3 weeks or later in the Spring or Summer.
I am in the process of adjusting my program due to increased growth. I was doing more 1 on 1 but now am taking up to 5 athletes at a time. This has been working well so I am able to take on more clients. Also, I’ve posted a calendar on my website at http://scottyorkfitness.com/schedule/ so you can get a feel for my current schedule. Keep in mind that spots may go quickly as an area Coach is interested in sending over 8-10 football players for strength training. I tell you this not to pressure you but just to keep you in the loop.
Thanks again, Scott
P.S. When I was at National Signing Day last week at Cedar Park High School supporting one of my clients, I met a Coach who asked me if I also did “Speed Training”. Although I don’t profess to be a speed expert, I’ve found that strength training produces increased first step acceleration, speed and power in my clients. Running is a one leg event (there’s one leg on the ground at a time). The more force you produce against the ground and the less time you spend on the ground when sprinting typically results in a faster athlete. Knowing that, I use a lot of one legged exercises like squats, jumps, lunges, resistance band drills not to mention 10 yard sprints. Plus bigger, faster and more powerful athletes look pretty menacing at the starting block 🙂