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Strength Training for Young Athletes:101

I am often asked the question, ”Is strength training safe for my athlete?” My answer is always that when done correctly, strength training is safe and beneficial for young athletes.

Strength training is an important part of developing the best all around athlete. I was introduced to strength training at an early age, in the 80’s, when bodybuilding ruled the training centers of America. I remember reading my father’s Muscle Magazines and Iron Man and being so amazed at the size of the athletes featured. Unfortunately, many of the parents that come in with their athletes to the Parisi Speed School San Diego and other Speed Schools across the country, grew up watching the same thing. So, when the strength training aspect of our program comes up, the first thought that enters their mind is that we are going to turn their athlete into the next Lou Ferrigno!

It’s not just our job to work with the athletes we train and their parents…but our job to educate the public, potential athletes and parents on the important aspects of strength training and how it can be very beneficial to their game on the field and overall fitness level.

At the Parisi Speed School, we perform strictly bodyweight strength training exercises with our athletes between the ages of 7-10. Athletes between the ages of 11-13 are then introduced to light resistance training, in the form of medicine balls, bands, light dumbbell’s and kettlebells. Between the ages of 14-18 we introduce the athletes to heavier resistance exercises using dumbbells, kettlebell’s and barbells. It is important to note that before we progress any athlete, the movement pattern must be mastered. If at any time we feel the movement quality breaks down, the movement is regressed to a bodyweight or lighter resistance.

Exercises- The K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Silly) Technique. We stick to the basic movement patterns that have stood the test of time. In most cases, getting an athlete back to basics is the best way for them to get the results they are looking for. Squats, Deadlifts, Pulls, Pushes, Presses and Single Leg Exercises, as well as upper body work make up our Strength Training Program. Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups (see this month’s Two-Minute Drill) are in nearly every session, as I feel both exercises are two of the best that an athlete can perform. It’s also important to note that everything we do is going to be based on the athlete’s ability level. With so many variations of exercises there is no need to do a one size fits all training program.

Sets/Reps-Again we keep it simple. 2-5 sets of 6-12 reps with any exercise performed. If we notice that an athlete is fatigued from our training or their daily activities, we will have them perform less… and sometimes no strength training at all. Having an athlete push themselves when they are fatigued and/or not listen to their body’s cues can not only hinder their training and set them back, but it can also lead to injury.

Frequency-We recommend that an athlete who participates in our strength program (ages 12+) have at least 48 hours of rest from strength training in between each session. Although an athlete may perform bodyweight exercises daily, rest will be key for their recovery and for their performance.

There is a lot of misinformation regarding strength training, so it is important to note that with over 25-years in the industry and 650,000 athletes trained, our company has seen the benefits of strength training firsthand when done correctly, safely and the individual athlete’s capabilities in mind. If you have any questions about strength training, feel free to reach out to me at

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