How To Safely Train Younger Athletes

We’re in the midst of an interview I did with my buddy and hardcore underground fitness expert, Jason Ferruggia. Last day he shared with us his personal post-workout nutrition tips as well as those he shares with own clients looking to build muscle.  If you haven’t seen Ferruggia before, he’s jacked AND he follows a plant-based diet.  Check out part 5 to find out what he has to say about muscle-gaining nutrition.

Often times kids growing up, no matter what they do, just can’t seem to put on any weight.  The calories just burn and burn.  But what if you are a young athlete and really want to build muscle, or what if you’re personal training younger athletes, what is the most effective AND safest way to help them gain muscle?

Let’s find out what Ferruggia does with his clients…


Craig Ballantyne: One of the other things you were saying about the teenage kid, it’s different and we might get more out of it now.

All bets are off when you’re 18 years old and you’re metabolism could be so jacked up and you’re doing activity that you don’t even think is activity, like you’re running around on your skateboard and stuff. The calories just generally should be through the roof for these guys. Right?

Jason Ferruggia: Yes. I try to keep them as clean as possible with younger guys like that.

I used to just tell them, “Eat Whoppers all day,” which obviously that’s not healthy. I try to keep it clean as possible by telling them to add two tablespoons of olive oil to every meal of the day. That’s an easy 1,000 calories right there and it’s healthier than eating pizza and burgers.

I try to do that. I still find that most of them do need to add in some junk food, but I tell them instead of going to McDonalds just make a burger at home or have some pasta at home that your mom makes or something like that. Eat some coconut milk ice cream instead of going out to Ben & Jerry’s. I try to keep it a little healthier, but they still definitely do NEED some kind of cheat food.

It is hard when you’re that young and the metabolism is that fast.

Craig Ballantyne: I laugh every time you say the word Jerry. Actually, while we’re on the topic of young athletes, why don’t you tell us a quick five minute spill on the young athletes that come in before the average Joes that come into your gym at night and just what you’re doing with those kids, again mixing guys and girls?

You kind of gave me the nutrition component of it, so what about the training?

Jason Ferruggia: The training is really BASIC with those guys.

I usually just have them do three exercises, because otherwise there’s too much confusion and they need to learn the exercises. So, at first, although I would like to be really old school and say that everyone just comes in and does squats, clean, and bench the first week most people aren’t prepared to do that

Kids are really tight…

… I don’t know if it’s from sitting around and playing Nintendo all the time or what, but they’re really tight, so they’re not always ready to squat or dead lift. They can’t hold an arch in their back for the life of them. Like I said before, it’s funny the girls actually can. More often than not the girls can do the things I want them to do pretty effectively, guys can’t.

I’ll START everyone out with unilateral kind of stuff.

We’ll do step ups and split squats, we’ll drag the sled, stuff like that, one arm rows, pushups, a lot of bodyweight exercise, inverted rows. Like I said, we’ll really do three exercises, a push, a pull, and a lower body exercise for about five sets.

I always keep the reps LOW with beginners, because they don’t have the intramuscle coordination and the stabilizer strength to do high reps. It’s too risky, so we keep the reps low, between five and eight for about five sets of three different exercises. Pretty simple. Then we may do a finisher at the end just to make it fun.

Then I’ll PROGRESS  them into the bigger lifts….

…squats, presses, dead lifts, cleans, stuff like that. My other big lifting progression is I know a lot of high school teens the football gets tested, and my college guys get tested on the cleans, so we have to do the clean, even though I said the jumps were easier. We will do a clean, but I always start with a dumbbell Olympic lift, that’s the EASIEST to learn and teach.

Then we’ll PROGRESS to a pull without a catch….

…which will be some kind of high pull or clean pull or something like that. Believe it or not, snatch is a lot easier to learn and teach than a clean, so the clean will be last on the list even though guys are going to be tested on it. We’ll work up to that. If you’re going to do that it is great for guys with shoulder problems if you have bumper plates you can drop them, like me. It’s more beneficial to drop the clean from the top.

That’s basically it.

With the younger athletes the programs are very simple and basic. Once they get more advanced we’ll kind of work up into the same kind of system that I discussed earlier.

Craig Ballantyne: That’s great information.
So, let’s check out part 7 to find out just how much cardio you should be doing if you’re looking to gain muscle.