Periodization for Youth Lifters
Periodization for Youth Lifters
Youth weightlifters are a huge asset to your weightlifting team. You have a young athlete that you can mold into the exact athlete that you want. This is awesome, but also a challenge. Yes, you can mold them into your technical model, but they are also young kids, so depending on the age, maturity level, and ability to take direction is how you need to base your program. You need to progress the youth athlete, not by numbers of what they hit, but by the technical progress they have made and fixing small mechanical issues to enable them to be the great technical model you perceive them as.
First, can they do a proper overhead squat without shifting or the bar falling forward or taking steps forward? All of this tells a tale. If they shift, they have some kind of imbalance. It could be hip, glute not firing, one ankle tighter than the other, and as a coach, you have to observe that and decide what it is. Bar falling forward, they have a thoracic spine issue and are very tight in their upper back. Taking a step forward, they could have very tight ankles that could cause this. The first step for a young athlete is to determine their weakness in mobility so you know how to set up their warm-ups and accessory lifts that would be helpful.
Once the weaknesses are established, then you can create the program. I believe the first month a youth lifter should just do the competitive movements snatch and clean and jerk. Just focusing on the small things like tight back on the pull, knees back right away, brushing, pause in the hole for snatches. Clean and jerks same on the pulls with a tight back off the floor, knees back, brush, wrap elbows fast with no elbow drop on the catch, then tight and straight drive on the jerk pausing in the split with the back knee down. During this first month, the sets should be anywhere from 6-8 and the reps should be 3-4 maybe 5 for each set. All squats should be 8-10 reps.
The second month is when you can start to play around with variations. Just simple variations work best for right now such as no feet, snatch balance, 1 or 2 boxes. Simple variations that keep the same concept of the competitive lifts to keep focusing on improving positions and technique. Lifts again this month should be volume based, 4-6 sets between 2-4 reps. Squats this month you can push a little bit keeping the rep range between 6-8.
The third month you should go back to the competitive lifts as much as possible. Throwing variations too much at a youth athlete could confuse them technique wise or they lose feeling of the lifts. So now you have them do mainly competitive lifts with sets from 4-6 and a rep range between 2-4 reps. Still a very volume intensive program. So as you can see the first quarter (12-week block) of a youth weightlifters life is very technique and volume based. To keep interest in the sport as well, you should have the youth weightlifter compete in this window and make it all about going 6 for 6 and making lifts. Everything in the first couple months is lots of volume and reps, so that means opening at a weight they can do for 3-4 reps and then progress intelligently.
The fourth month is when you can start to push the athlete now. They have a feel for the sport, a decent idea of what you are looking for movement wise. This month, still volume based, you can add some simple variations again. Along with the variations, this is the month where you can start to push their squats a little. Maybe a 4-6 set range of 3 sets 3-5 reps and then 2 sets of an 8-15 rep range to push them as an athlete and learn how to push themselves as well.
The fifth month now you can add more complex variations such as no brush snatch, Chun snatches, tall snatch, muscle clean, no brush clean, low hang snatches. Along with these variations go back to more of a high volume squat focusing on good posture and form. Accessory work should always be included to help with the weaknesses and imbalances from the beginning of their training.
The sixth month is when your youth athlete should definitely be ready to compete at the national level if not sooner. At this point, now you can push an intensity phase and see their technique with heavier weights. This is almost an evaluation of your coaching and your athlete's progress. Do they have better technique, with good positions at bigger weights than the past couples months? This tells you a lot about your programming and coaching and how well your athlete has progressed. It also shows you what they need to improve on to become a better olympic weightlifter.
This block of 5 videos from Weightlifting University tells a lot about programming and how to train athletes. Check it out HERE!