Weights for teens?

I am 14 years old and I have been lifting weights on and off since I was 12 (Although right now I probably haven’t lifted for six months). My question is whether or not it is okay for me to lift weights right now, and if it is, how should I go about it? I read this thread from the old forum, but found it inconclusive.


Training History:

Played soccer from probably age 6-12

Played hockey from age 8-14(I am still playing; this is my last season though.)

Trained for track by myself for a long time now, but didn’t start to compete until age 12 (School Track only).

Joined Track Club about a month ago.

PB’s: ( sorry I don’t have any 100 or 200 PB’s but as I said I have only been in track for a month, so I have only run in one indoor competition.

60m: 7.96 FAT

300m:40.73 FAT

Strenghts and Weakness:

My start is a huge weakness right now, but my strenght is probably my ability to open up after 30 meters, and my longer speed endurance. In my 60 I had a terrible start, I have a huge tendency to pop right up out of the blocks, but I’m working on it.

I’m 5’10, 140 pounds. Is it alright for me to begin lifting weights? When and how should I do it? Which exercises should I focus on and for how many reps.?

To be safe I was thinking that instead of focusing on my 1RM like most of you guys probably do, I could start with like a 8RM, 10, or even 12 RM, and then as I adapt to the weight training I could start lowering the number of reps.

If there is any more info you need to answer my question feel free to ask.


Try http://nbaf.com/nbaf/july7pgg.htm

At your age I would concentrate on calisthenics and medicine ball exercises to build a general strength base. These and tempo running should constitute the majority of you training. Forget speed endurance for now. Improving your general fitness will take care of your speed endurance needs for the time being.

As for short speed work, you first need to get strong enough in order to sprint properly. Therefore, I would keep speed work very short (10-40m) and low in volume while you concentrate on improving your general strength.

I agree with Mel Siff. I think lifitng at your age is fine, but it’s not a necessity either. Forget 1RM stuff. Also do yourself a favor and NEVER read bodybuilding magazines, they’re worthless. And please get someone to show proper technique in the lifts. A few compound exercises (squats or dealifts, presses, pulls) for 1-3 sets of 10-12 reps is all you need.

Alex, don’t even worry yourself over things like 8, 10 or12rm’s. You should work yourself up to only moderately heavy(relative term) sets of 10-12 reps sets and very gradually so. Take at least 4-5 weeks to get there. Then go down to fives for a few weeks and then back to sets of 10-12 reps for 3-4 weeks and then to 5’s for maybe 2-3 weeks. Take your time getting to heavier sets of 8-12 reps for you will benefit in the long run by spending more time in such phases.

Why not learn proper olympic lifting form at this time? Master technique in cleans, jerks, snatches… surely it will pay off in the long run.

Rather than learning the full lifts or the power versions of the same I think it would be best to learn proper pulling action from olympic variations like clean pulls, clean grip shrugs, mid-thigh pulls, rdl’s, etc. These exercises lend themselves better to higher reps that the beginner or novice needs early on. The full or power versions of the olympic lifts would be better performed in lower reps. Beginners or novices need more reps early imho.:slight_smile:

here is an article first posted in the old form by coolcolJ that supports what david mentioned:

By: Larry Sheppard BA, BEd, CSCS - Junior Development Coordinator Ontario Weightlifting Association.

There are members of the medical community and fitness industry, and even some individuals involved in sport training, that seem to have a lot of negative things to say about Olympic weightlifting. Some talk about shearing and compressive forces, trauma to the joints and connective tissue, and all kinds of chronic injuries. (1) Others say there are no carry over effects from the Olympic lifts to sports performance. They feel the “fast lifts” only make you faster in the snatch and clean and jerk and not more explosive in other sports. They speak of momentum, and the inverse relationship between lifting velocity and the production of muscle tension. (2) Statements like these are often made by individuals who live in the “muscle and fiction” zone - that place where pecs and biceps are worshipped and high priced pills, potions and isokinetic resistance machines are promoted. Most of them could not teach a power clean or hi-pull if their lives depended on it, and they play the “danger card” to keep others from learning.

Exactly who is documenting all these serious injuries? In my thirty plus years of training and coaching I have seen a few minor muscle pulls and strains from Olympic weightlifting, but never any tendon ruptures, ligament tears, or herniated discs. True, I have seen a few nagging “overuse” syndromes among some high level competitors and Master lifters; but, I have seen more such ailments among serious bodybuilders who have never done fast lifting. And, having coached some three hundred youngsters under the age of 16, I have not witnessed a single injury of the orthopedic nature. Nor, have I seen any of my late teen or adult lifters develop problems because of the training they did as adolescents. On the contrary, kids that do Olympic lifting in their early teens seem to go through the rigors of other sports with less injury problems than those who take up strength training later.

As for all the research that points to the superiority of slow velocity resistance movements in building strength, I hardly see how this obvious fact downplays the effectiveness of including some quick power movements in the training of athletes. After all, there is a lot more to athleticism than strength and muscle size alone. So, while high intensity gurus are running off at the mouth about their scientific programs, and academics are citing twelve week studies on untrained subjects, no one ever asks questions of athletes who have trained with different protocols. I dare say the “experts” might not like to hear testimonials such as the following:

One of the most accomplished weightlifters on our team is a university student by the name of Buck Ramsay. Recently, he was approached by a novice lifter from our club who is training primarily for sprinting. The young man wanted Buck’s opinion on the information he was getting from a personal trainer at a local health club. According to that trainer, power snatches, and such, were much too glorified as sports exercises and, of course, very dangerous. He also told the youngster that he should just return to his old routine of performing a few simple machine exercises and that as his muscles got bigger and stronger he would run faster. Now, there was a slight catch though; he was going to have to do forced reps, with the trainers help, and he would have to pay for the coaching.

Buck mentioned that for a couple of years in high school, he too had trained in a similar fashion. During that period he did lots of partner assisted dumbbell exercises, negative benches, and a wide array of leg movement on machines. As a result of all this work, when he was seventeen, he managed to run the 100 metres in 13.3 seconds. Then, the following year, after ten months of Olympic lifting, and with no track workouts, Buck surprised everyone by winning the district 100 metre title with an 11.5 clocking.

Was it just the explosive lifting that made him faster? Of course not! The main factor was Buck’s increased development in the hip/gluteal region - or as famed weightlifter and coach, Tommy Kono, has called it, “The Seat of Power”. These muscles are best trained by doing deep, Olympic style squats (back and front), with a moderate tempo. (3) This technique also develops stability in the lumbar area and great strength in both the quads and hamstrings, exactly what a sprinter needs. Hip and leg force aside though, there were probably some other physiological changes that made for Buck’s astonishing result on the track:

You see, Olympic lifting training improves one’s balance, coordination, and rhythm of movement. The athlete cultivates a feel for applying forces with his or her muscles groups in a sequential manner – from the core of the body outward. The muscles also become trained to move quickly from eccentric to concentric contraction (often referred to as the stretch-shortening cycle). (4) Indeed, in my opinion, Olympic lifting is the most effective form of plyometric training.

What about flexibility and its contribution to sports performance? Range of motion amplifies an athlete’s muscular strength and makes the execution of fast powerful movements much easier. (5) Just think about the golf swing of Tiger Woods or the running stride of Edwin Moses. Although everyone recognizes the fluidity of champions such as these, very few people know that Olympic weightlifters, along with gymnasts, display the highest flexibility levels of any athletes. (6) By performing the Olympic lifts a trainee develops an increased mobility, or stretch reserve, in most of the body’s major joints. The position assumed, such as catching cleans with the elbows high, squatting low, and locking the bar up over the back of the head, plus the weight of the barbell, actually increases joint amplitude and integrity. Case in point - I know two professional hockey players who claim that working on the overhead snatch squat has saved their careers. Both had suffered repeated groin and shoulder injuries, and despite years of rehab exercises and stretching, were only able to regain proper stability and movement in those area, by doing that one exercise.

So, the experts say there is no carry over from Olympic lifting to other skills! Now, who in their right mind would argue that the quickness, body awareness, and suppleness developed through gymnastic training could not be transferred to other activities? I have seen youngsters with gymnastic backgrounds become champions in events such as pole vaulting, hurdling and long jumping, and in sports such as wrestling, snow boarding and rock climbing. Well, Olympic weightlifting has been called “gymnastics with weights”, and since it too develops so many athletic attributes, how could anyone suggest that this training method would not make one better in another physical arena?

In most countries that take sports training seriously, this discussion would be quickly put to rest. You might actually be hard pressed to find a single resistance training machine in all of Cuba, but you would see more Olympic sets in Havana alone than all of Canada. Is it poor economic situations which limit machine training by Russian, Cuban, and Polish athletes? Hardly! The fact is, they are fortunate enough to have plenty of top-notch Olympic weightlifting coaches who are directly, and indirectly, involved in training other athletes. Interestingly, Australia is now following suit. Prior to the Sydney Games the Aussies hired all kinds of Eastern European coaches across many disciplines. These individuals have encouraged their counterparts to use certified weightlifting coaches as strength advisors to their sports, and as a result plenty of Australia’s best athletes are training with the Olympic lifts. (7)

This is the key though - good coaching. Actually, if an athlete does not have expert coaching in the Olympic lifts he or she would be better off not to perform the movements at all. This is because, unlike machine exercises, which require little supervision, it takes months of closely scrutinized technical drilling to approach mastery in the Olympic lifts. The lifts themselves are not dangerous, but doing them poorly, especially with heavy loads, is a risky practice.

Now, our young sprinter has a choice. He has access to our Athletic Training Centre, and the opportunity to workout with some accomplished lifter/athletes, or he can go back to the chrome, pulleys, and mirrors and the one size fits all training system at his old facility. I have warned him against the latter, because the regimen he did follow left him very tight in the shoulders, hamstrings and quads. I think he will be O.K. though. After just a few Olympic style workouts with some very light weights his flexibility and posture have already stated to improve. And, I predict that when he packs some power into his hips, legs and lower back he will undoubtedly post new personal bests.

Why am I so sure of this? Well, in the spring of 1970 I had a somewhat similar experience to Buck Ramsay’s. Without practice, I ran the 100 metres in 11.6, (my previous best had been 12.3) and even managed to win a shot put title at a bodyweight of 71 kilos. These results shocked me, and my track coaches, and also came on the heels of my introduction to Olympic weightlifting some ten months earlier. Any wonder then why I have no use for the opinions of those who have never done a classical lift or even a real squat. It seems to me, that when it comes to Olympic weightlifting, ignorance is breeding contempt, and hordes of North American athletes are being shortchanged.

I’m sort of brining this thread back from the dead (almost a year!) but I plan on following Pioneer’s reccomendations. I have 1 more question however. How often should I go to failure (if ever) and when I don’t go to failure, approxametly how many reps should I leave in reserve.

Don’t go to failure.

David W has an article about buffering which is good. I would say for a young age - more than 4 older athletes about 2

Agreed, don’t work to failure. It’s not necessary and may, in fact, be a big negative in achieving the best results from your training. As far as how many reps to leave in reserve, that is a difficult question to answer definitively. In early training phases, you should leave maybe 8-10 reps in reserve but as you move up this reserve number will be reduced greatly. Maybe as low as 1-2 reps in reserve. If you are a beginner, sorry I don’t remember, you probably don’t want to get down even that low and you’ll want to take more time during hypertrophy/accumulation phases maybe as long as 5-6 weeks to reach the end of the phases-very gradual.