Many golf and fitness pros have a lot of experience with training adults.
At Evolution, we are lucky to work with both adults and young athletes. It gives us a good advantage when working with different populations.
The main underlying theme of training young athletes is that they are not mini adults.
The way that adults train is much different than the way kids need to. Some observations about training young athletes:
- They can’t really handle complexity
- Their attention and focus can be lacking
- They do not really know how to move their bodies
These factors can arise when training these athletes for fitness and for golf. i am not going to speculate on golf training for juniors, but I am sure they cannot handle very advanced skills.
There are a lot of good people doing some great stuff with golfers. I have seen some of these things fall a little bit flat with juniors. They need much more simple things to work on.
I am not sure a lot of pros are ready to handle when a kid starts chasing a butterfly instead of the training drill.
Let’s look at some of the key categories that junior and adult golfers differ
To put it bluntly, kids do not know how to move. It is really hard for them to control their bodies if they have not learned to yet.
Performing certain movement patterns can be really difficult to master. Luckily there are a couple of methods we can use to shorten the learning curve.
We can reduce
- complexity- start with easier movements and progress over time
- range of motion- reducing the range of motion of an exercise can make it easier for a kid to master
- loading- start with light weights or even assistance with younger athletes
- instability- make sure junior golfers have as much built in stability until they can control it themselves.
If we use the hex bar deadlift for example, we can switch to a kettlebell deadlift. This reduces loading and complexity. Range of motion can be tweaked by elevating the kettlebell off of the ground. Stability would be the same in both.
Junior golfers need a lot less mobility than we think. Most young athletes lack control to move into mobile positions. This goes back to the motor control issue. A golfer that does not turn at the upper back may just literally not know how to.
One time, a father was asking me about his 10 year old son’s tight hips. So I had him get down so I could look at his hip rotation. Passively, he had great range of motion but was unable to produce it actively.
There is no amount of mobility or stretching that would improve this athlete’s range of motion. He had plenty but no clue how to use it.
Mobility training for junior golfers is less about pure range of motion and more about moving through good ranges of motion.
Young athletes need strength. No one would ever argue that kids are stronger than adults, so they need to train for strength.
It is also advantageous for athletes to train for strength as young as possible. This will help them build a good foundation to build on for years and fall in line with athletic development models.
The younger the athlete, the more basic the training needs to be. We had a group of 5-7 year old baseball players that got crushed by simple planks. It can be that simple because they have never done anything before.
Progress as the athlete shows the ability to and never assume a kid is ready for very advanced means. They could always get better at the simple things.
Strength is the ability to produce force and power is the ability to produce it quickly.
If younger athletes lack strength then why are we training to stack power on top of it?
This doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but plenty of athletes are taking maximal swings with lighter golf clubs to improve their swing speed.
Power comes at a later stage when an athlete is actually strong enough, moves well enough, and can handle the training.
Bonus: Some Tips for Training Young Athletes
- Choose movements that cannot be done incorrectly. Example: farmer carries. Grab two weights and walk. Squats can be done wrong, very easily.
- Find fun things. Choose what the athlete likes and let them master that movement. If they are young enough they will have time to do the things they hate.
- Lower reps, more sets. Most new lifters would benefit more from 5 sets of 6 instead of 3 sets of 8. The total reps are similar but the reps in the sets of 6 will probably be better.