Youth Athletes and Strength Training

Somewhere along the way youth athletics have turned into a year around activity.  I’m an implant to Maryland so the popularity of Lacrosse was lost on me until I moved here in 2006.  Actually it wasn’t until 2010 when I opened up WS&C that I fully understood just how big lacrosse was in this state.  It didn’t take long before parents of all different sports began calling or stopping in looking for a strength program for their son or daughter.  Not all of them were lacrosse players but the overwhelming majority played lacrosse in the spring even if they were looking for training for another sport.

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Success with Heavy Light Medium

Lets start this off by saying that HLM is not a novice program. No matter how strong you think you are, if you have never ran through a simple linear progression on the basic barbell lifts, you will get stronger much quicker by doing that than anything you will read in this article.


The goal here is to explain what we do with certain people when they finish up a novice LP. A Heavy-Light-Medium (HLM) program provides a pretty good early-intermediate way to design weekly increases. Not all of our members use this template, but it can be very useful if used appropriately. It’s a basic framework that can be applied to athletes, older folks, and everyone in-between.

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Are You Strong Enough To Run?

This article is especially relevant due to some extremely nice weather we’ve been having here in Maryland lately. It is from our coach Steve Barker and originally appeared on his blog last year at


It’s getting nice out, which means everyone will be (and should be) getting outside more to move around after a long winter of staying indoors, binge eating oreos and checking to see what’s new on Netflix. The first thing everyone thinks to do once it gets nice out is to go for a run, and when the weather here in Maryland got over 60 degrees the first day, the sidewalks and streets were flooded with ipod-wearing runners hitting the pavement for the first time in a long time.  But what happened to those first timers? The streets haven’t been that busy since. Where have they all gone?

I have a few ideas.

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You are You and I am Me

When we opened the doors of CFR and WS&C over 6 years ago one thing I was not expecting was a large portion of our membership would be females. I mean, we squat, press and pull heavy 5 days a week. There is no AC, only barbells and squat racks. I was a strength coach for the military and I assumed what type of person would be walking in the door. Very quickly I found this was not the case. Women love to pick up heavy shit and get strong. As a matter of fact, it’s much more fun coaching women on the major barbell lifts than men. So much so, I have jokingly said I should turn WSC/CFR into a women’s only gym.  Don’t worry guys, this will never happen!  However, they learn the lifts quicker, listen better, have less bad habits and generally move better than their male counterpart. I guess this is because most of them have never cleaned before so they listen to every word and work hard at mastering the details. The men quit listening when they hear the word clean and immediately start cleaning like the local football coach showed them. These habits are hard to break.

One thing I was not prepared for was the constant battle women face about how they should look. I never thought about this for a couple of reasons. I have a sister but she was quite a bit older than me and most of my memories are when she was graduating high school and getting married. I grew up with a brother 6 years older than me and thus never really had a female in the house concerned about body image. I know my mother would diet when I was a kid but I never remember her complaining to me about any serious body composition issues. My wife has always been athletic and when she began her strength journey, I never heard her mention her enlarging quads being a real problem other than finding pants that would fit. She was always more concerned with the weight on the bar and increasing it. Every now and then she asks me if her quads or butt look big, usually in a joking manner. I always tell her “Ah yeah, of course they do. You squat 260 pounds, they look great!”

I love my job and the absolute best part is when a female walks in the door for their free week trial on a Monday. Mondays are always squat day. I love teaching the squat. For me when a new member walks in the door it’s almost like a treasure hunt. The minute I have them descend into their first squat may be one of the most exciting things I do all day. It’s exactly like opening up a treasure box or a present each time. I get to see their first squat and I immediately know the work I have ahead of me. I immediately see the future. Every person’s squat is different and I can foresee 6 months down the road. I don’t see the shaky first squat in front of me with a 35 pound bar on their back. I see what will be an absolutely perfect Low Bar Back Squat loaded with 200 pounds in the near future. I see the them not as they are at that moment, whether skinny with no muscle mass, 50 or 100 pounds over weight or everything in between. I see what they will look like with hard work, consistent effort and a sensible diet.

I know what they will look like when they squat 200 pounds with confidence. Do you know what that looks like? It looks different for everyone. Much like each one of you look different to me at the bottom of a squat, you all look different than you perceive on the first day.  That’s the day when I see the future and envision you squatting 200 pounds or more. The one thing in common is to us, you all look great. You look just as your Creator intended you to look when He also hoped you would some day be strong and powerful. But that image in our mind doesn’t look like the magazine cover you saw checking out at the grocery store.  The airbrushed, photo shopped, muscle wasted, skinny fat model you wished you looked like, or had legs, shoulders or arms like.  Because you don’t look like her; your legs won’t look like hers. You are NOT her.  Be thankful.

If you haven’t noticed ladies, you are all built differently. Some of you carry more muscle mass than others. Some of you simply look at a barbell and gain a pound of muscle. You have large muscular quads when you walk in the door the first time and you have never even seen a squat. You have shoulders and traps like an athlete and you have never heard of a deadlift. Others walk in with little to no muscle on their legs and elsewhere. They are skinny and those first squats are difficult for them.  They wish they could squat like you and don’t understand why the empty bar feels so heavy. Both of you will be strong. Both of you will change physically but you will never look the same.  And you won’t look like that magazine cover.

Every single person who walks in our door creates a level of excitement that is difficult to explain. When a female walks in our door, I don’t see her as overweight or obese. I see a person with near perfect levers that will make her a good weightlifter. The only thing stopping her from fulfilling her potential and being great is HERSELF. I see a person who holds and easily builds muscle. I see a woman with big, muscular quads and glutes who will only get stronger and more powerful as time passes. I see a woman who has a strong back long before she has ever touched her first weight. I immediately start seeing the you that you were put on this earth to be. The strong, powerful, confident and capable you. I see a person that does NOT look like a fitness model on a magazine. I see a strong woman who not only is strong but looks strong. I see the you that you were meant to be, NOT the one society is telling you to be.

I was recently reading a book and a section really jumped out at me. The book, The Development of Muscular Bulk and Power by Anthony Ditillo, was written in the early 1970s. It was written for men who wanted to get into serious weight training. It was the author’s attempt at a basic beginner’s guide to gaining strength and size. It’s a pretty awesome book I would recommend to everyone. The part that jumped out at me was a section called The Forming of Realistic Goals. I will quote one of the most important things everyone should know and understand when beginning a journey to improve their health and fitness.

“Better to merely accept such an occasional occurrence as being the ‘scheme of things’ and after hashing and rehashing such pertinent facts in your mind you will sooner or later come to the conclusion that you are you, I am me, and ‘never the twain shall meet’. One of the most important things any trainee can learn is that we must work with what we have, not what we imagine ourselves to own or that which we feel we shall indeed possess at some later time.”

I could not say it better myself. This is an extremely important concept to grasp. If you are the woman who gains muscular size quickly and increases weights on the bar with relative ease, why try to be something you are not? It will only create disappointment and failure. Stoptrying to look how the magazine or society tells you. Take what you have been blessed with and use it. Use it to become the strong person you were meant to be. Trust me, somewhere there is a woman who wishes she could be as strong as YOU or look like YOU.  Take your strengths and run with them. Focus on them and make them even better. Be proud to be you and stop trying to be someone you are not.

Few things break my heart more than watching a woman get stronger each day only to be derailed by what someone else tells her she should look like. Or worse yet, quitting because of an unrealistic or unattainable goal she has set for herself.  Let a stranger look at you in awe because you LOOK like you can squat 300 pounds. That is much better than them never noticing you because you have spent a lifetime hiding it instead of embracing it. Or even worse, a lifetime of striving to be someone you are not. Just do us a favor and roll with it.  Be BADASS and own how badass you are becoming.  BE YOU.