“Young People Shouldn’t Be Lifting Weights” Is Wrong. Period.

Adults who believe young people should not be lifting weights are wrong. Period. This goes for sport coaches, trainers, and parents. Now I understand why they may believe the way that they do. In my experience it is for 1 of 3 reasons primarily:

1. They do not understand it.
Over 50% of the adults that walk into my gym have never touched a barbell before. Moreover, they have a negative view of weightlifting. Mostly, because of the absolute shit show that is the internet. As adults, we are so easy to live in a world of absolutes and extremes so when we see one gym fail video that becomes the expectation and the standard. Since one guy dropped a bar on himself on Instagram, that probably happens everywhere all of the time.

2. They had a bad experience themselves.
We all had high school gym class or weightlifting. In gym class, some of us got bullied by someone bigger and stronger than us. In weightlifting class, we had a teacher who did the best he could with the information (and frankly the f*cks) he had at the time. I remember the “coaching” that went into teaching kids how to lift. Put the bar on your back, look up at that crossbar, and squat until you can’t go any farther. It wasn’t coaching it was instructing, but it was the easiest way to teach 100+ kids a year how to kinda squat.
Maybe they (the adult) didn’t get involved in the gym until college or later in life. I know what it feels like to walk into a gym and not know anyone or have any idea of what to do. The traditional gym offers very little in the way of coaching and education. This can be a very off-putting experience.

3. They got hurt at some point in their life and that experience coincided with exercise.
Maybe they blew out their knee playing sports in HS and they never fully came back from it, but they had weightlifting class. Maybe they hurt their back as an adult and just so happened to be taking part in an exercise routine during that time. All be it sporadically.
I 100% acknowledge that people get hurt in the gym or because of what they did in the gym, but MOST likely the gym is not the root cause. People come to the gym, train for ego rather than longevity, workout with reckless abandon for an hour and do nothing to change the other 23 hours of the day. Without managing stress, diet, and sleep- exercise will not be as effective and you will probably end up getting hurt. Blaming the exercise routine is like going to the bar, having 20 beers and then a shot of tequila and saying, “that shot of tequila really messed me up.” It does not acknowledge all of the things that happened before or in this case the 20 beers that we drank. Correlation does not equal causality and it does not take into account all of the baggage that we bring to the gym with us.

Each of these now requires a different solution.

#1 requires you to be a novice again, to be a student. Willing to learn as you grow. If there is something you don’t understand, find someone who can teach it to you. This is difficult for adults because of ego. We get to a point where we feel we know all that we need to know and we don’t hold space for anything new. Admitting that you don’t understand something as a 30, 40, 50-year-old adult can be difficult if you have a fixed mindset. So as adults, we project this onto kids.

#2 requires you to be vulnerable again. To overcome YEARS of negative thoughts and emotions tied to a specific experience is really hard. If you had a bad experience at one gym, you think it will be that way at every gym. Being the “new guy or gal” in a community of people already indoctrinated in the methodology of fitness requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability. You as an adult obviously want to shield the kids in your care from that feeling. But in doing so, you rob them of the experience to be gained.

#3 is one of the most difficult because it requires ownership. It’s so much easier to blame something outside of our control rather than look at what part we may have played in our own demise. Now, sometimes shit happens. If you play football and take a helmet to the side of the knee I don’t care how strong or how much training you’ve done, your potential for injury goes way up… fast. BUT you also chose to put yourself in that position! Sports have risks. You knew what you signed up for and if you aren’t having that conversation with young athletes you are doing them a real disservice.

If you are advocating that young athletes should not lift weights you are making a bad recommendation founded on your opinion, not in science. The research suggests that children as young as 10 benefit from the principles of strength and conditioning. Now, a 10-year-old does not need a 1 rep max and if you are in a system where this is happening get that kid out.

The intention is everything. Be intentional about your athlete’s training. We are.


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