Strength training for middle school athletes.
Our parents and doctors have legitimate reason for their concern. As a coach, I have always been concerned about the readiness of the students to begin lifting on a regular basis. Our middle school athletes offer the widest range of physique among the age groups. Many of them are physically mature and ready for heavy lifting, while others are awaiting the onset of puberty and the release of the hormones that make strength-building feasible.
After studying the issues for many years, I have come up with my own ideas of how to teach such training to the middle-school football players.
Having taught at the middle school, junior high, high school, and one 7-12 school levels, I know that each situation requires a different approach. Space, time, and equipment will affect the organization of each program.
Middle-school athletes do not have to concentrate on strength development as intensely as they do on lifting technique. The strength will come with physical maturity. The most important thing to teach is the proper lifting techniques.
That is the way to avoid the injury and prepare the athletes for the workouts.
We usually work out twice a week, using the same basic workout every day (emphasizing technique rather than poundage). Once the athlete exhibits his ability to do an exercise, he is allowed to add weight.
My rule of thumb is: "If the muscle is sore, that's O.K. If the joint is hurt, stop and reduce the weight." Students should add weight slowly and only if they can maintain the proper technique.
Though I cannot always see everyone in the weight room, I always try to keep a watchful eye on them and especially the kid who tries too hard and the kid who is somehow in a group with larger kids who can do more.
Our basic program is modeled somewhat after the BFS Readiness program; I use its "graduation" criteria: Keep the "graduates" in one group and the "non-graduates" (who do no work with as much weight) in another.
We usually go about three weeks before changing up auxiliary lifts. Our core lifts box squats, bench, hang cleans, and dead lift. While routines are great, you need a little variety or the kids will get bored.
We vary the auxiliary exercises from time to time. But we try to keep the same core exercises for each workout (squats, bench, cleans, and dead lift).
During the summer workouts, we are able to spread out our weights in the gym rather than the classroom size space we normally use during the winter. We then try to a stretch with each station. We also add a neck exercise--since we do not have a neck machine, we do other neck exercises to stabilize the neck
AGILITIES AND SPEED PROGRAM
In and Out
Lunges Cone Drills
Pro Speed Agility or T-Drill
Resistance Running (2-man harness)
From Running Drills
12 inch hurdles
We spend about 40 minutes with each group. Usually the 6th graders are kept together in one group. This group does their speed work first. The 7th graders will lift first. After about 40 minutes, we let them take a drink as we change stations.
We do much of the same routine except that we have about an hour with each group. Now the new 7th graders run first while the 8th graders lift first. We also do more conditioning work in the summer. Winter is for speed, agility, and strength work. Summer is for all aspects of training but more emphasis on conditioning as the season approaches.
Emphasis is always on proper techniques rather than heavy weights. As the players physically mature, they can add weight to their lifts. Keeping the less mature players from adding too much weight too early is the greatest challenge.
Most of our players get stronger throughout their middle school careers so that they are physically ready for the increased demands at the varsity level.
By Johnny Metcalf, Clay-Chalkville Middle School, Trussville, AL
WEIGHT CIRCUIT: (DEPENDS ON EQUIPMENT) Leg Press 2 x 10 Upright Rows 2 x 5 Dead Life** 2 x 5 Leg ext.curls 3 x 10 Box Squats 2 x 5 Hang Cleans # 2 x 5 Bench Press 2 x 5 Incline Press (close grip) 2 x 5 Hyperextensions (back) 3 x 10 Pull-ups (towel) 2 x 10 Box Lunges 2 x 10 Bench Dips 30 Dumbbell work Rotator Series Triceps ext. Lat Pulls (bent over flys) Neck Exercises ** This is the first year we have tried Dead Lift--it seems to help reinforce the lower back and chest position you want for all power exercises. Rubber training weights (10 and 15 pounds) are used to get the bar up off the ground; this helps prevent having to bend over too far with the lighter weights. # We start with Hang Cleans and progress to Power Cleans (usually in the summer after we can properly do Hang Cleans.) Rubber training weights are used to get the bar up off the ground for Power Cleans.
michael colucci (Member): awesome 10/29/2008 2:41 AM
this is awesome man. i'm a junior varsity football coach at a school in a small town in nevada (right outside of las vegas) and this is our first year playing all the big schools from las vegas. The thing that i've noticed at the varsity and j.v. levels is the size and speed differential between us and the larger schools. The junior varsity is doing alright because we have some decently gifted skill athletes down there, but both varsity and jv o and d lines are dwarfed by the other teams. The frustrating thing about this is that i know the boys on the other teams have been lifting since junior high and have built a program. whereas we have seniors that can't do a parallel squat or even a pushup. it's embarrassing and it needs to stop.
our middle school football program on the other hand, has a rich winning history. But when they get into high school where size and strength are key factors in success or failure, they get trounced year after year. i feel that if we could implement a program similar to yours in our middle school it would greatly benefit both our high school and middle school programs.