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Things We Already Know: You get strong by lifting heavy weights (part I)

Posted by tdifranc on July 14, 2010

Here is what we know:  Many injuries in young athletes occur because they are not strong…many young athletes are not strong because they don’t lift heavy weights…lifting heavy weights the wrong way without any instruction, guidance, or appropriate progression can create injuries.

As a physical therapist I can’t tell you how many kids I have evaluated with unnecessary non-contact injuries and nearly 100% of the time the injury can be traced to some sort of weakness above or below the site of pain!  The key word there is UNNECESSARY!!!  I am talking about actual non-contact injuries not soccer “injuries”:

As a strength coach in the NBA D-League I can’t tell you how many players I have seen who have never lifted heavy weights in their entire life and are scared to start!  Often I hear the excuse that if they lift heavy it will affect their skill or their shot.  Here’s the deal:  UNNECESSARY non-contact injuries at that level are UNACCEPTABLE – they gotta get strong!!!

When I was a boy…just kidding I’m not legally permitted to start a sentence like that due to that fact that I’m under the age of 30 BUT…when I was growing up (in Vermont) we played DIFFERENT sports every season and when we weren’t doing that we were running around in fields, climbing trees in the woods, and jumping off of rocks to go swimming.  Kids don’t do that anymore and that’s a fact!!! They sit a lot and they text a lot – this doesn’t build strong bones, ligaments, or muscles!  They go from texting to playing sports without preparing and expect to perform at a high level without injury.

Don’t forget the fact that the nutritional value and quality of food kids are provided with is nothing like it used to be as our food gets more and more processed/mass produced.  In other words kids are much less active and eat food with significantly less nutritional value!  This is a perfect recipe for being obese and out of shape or skinny, weak and injury prone before the age of 12!

So are both the child obesity epidemic and/or the epidemic of young athletes suffering ACL tears, dislocations, and broken bones during sport beginning to make sense yet???  Kids need to be active and if they want to get strong they need to lift heavy weight and they need to eat nutrient dense food!

Don’t take this the wrong way…all of that being said I believe that no kid under the age of 13 should be involved in organized performance training or lifting – they should be out playing with their friends!!!!  Notice I didn’t say they should be out texting with their friends. There is a right way and a wrong way to teach young athletes how to prepare for lifting heavy weights.  First they need to be challenged with basic body weight movements and taught how to control their body with just their own body weight.  Most importantly they need to have fun doing it (this goes for 13 year olds and for NBA prospects).

As they grow and get comfortable with their own body weight there is an appropriate time to begin loading young athletes. There is no reward for making this happen fast or at any particular rate but trust me they need this – how else are they going to get strong enough to avoid unnecessary non-contact injuries and perform at a high level???

Regardless of if you are working with a 13 year old baseball player or an NBA prospect they need to be comfortable lifting heavy weights.  They will not get strong if they don’t…if they are not strong they will not perform at the highest level they are capable…if they are not strong they will eventually get injured.

Here is what I mean when I say UNNECESSARY non-contact injury: Now do you think it’s important for athletes to lift heavy weights and get strong???

Stay tuned for part 2 to learn how to help athletes prepare for and build a foundation for lifting heavy weights the right way…


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