The number of participants engaging in strength training has been steadily increasing among all levels and age groups of the global population. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the implications and consequences of training novice and youth athletes. Coaches must have a sound knowledge base regarding the psychological, physical, and physiological changes occurring as a result of strength and conditioning programs. The purpose of this article is to review some of the potential ramifications of training as it pertains to novice lifters, especially for the sport of weightlifting.
An athlete’s chronological and physiological age will have a direct effect on how the coach should construct his or her periodization. A younger athlete’s body can adapt more quickly to neural and hormonal responses from new external stimuli. Coaches may observe relatively large strength gains from baseline measures as a direct result of motor neuron recruitment and increased human growth hormone secretion in younger athletes. Due to these adaptations, coaches may utilize a linear periodization scheme when it comes to intensity and volume with their young beginners. However, older novice athletes will not adapt as quickly in terms of relative strength gains. Coaches may observe greater motor synchronization due to a learning effect, but the skeletal muscular system will require systematically placed recovery periods for optimal long-term progressions. Therefore, coaches should apply an undulating scheme for their older amateurs.
The equipment available should also be considered when training novice weightlifters. Studies have indicated that free weights produce superior results, especially in terms of movement and sport specificity. Proper lifting technique must be a priority when instructing novice athletes, as poor mechanics will impede adaptation, limit performance gains, and stagnate progression. The first day an athlete begins Olympic weightlifting, the coach should introduce a general warm up, stretch, and then move straight to teaching the lifts using the holistic method. A holistic method approach includes teaching the easier large muscle lifts first, like the front squat and back squat, and then progressing to more explosive and technical lifts such as the Olympic lifts.
The most important thing is to be patient. Athletes will want to increase the weight so they can compete with their friends or teammates. A good coach must be able tell them that they must get proficient with technique before they can max out. A good motto to coach by is, “never sacrifice technique for added weight.” Young athletes need to be trained using benchmarks. Instead of maxing out, young athletes should focus on surpassing a benchmark of a best set of 8 or 5 with perfect technique. Once an athlete can perform all these reps with relative perfect technique, then the athlete will be allowed to set a new benchmark.
In conclusion, strength and conditioning professionals should consider the evidence presented when prescribing a training program to youth and amateur weightlifters. Technique should be the main emphasis in a beginner athlete’s first macrocycles, with athletes focusing on setting benchmarks instead of one-rep records. Coaches can utilize Sinclair scores and experienced lifters as a way to motivate new athletes. Additionally, coaches must constantly monitor their novice lifters in order to account for physiological adaptations.