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The Youth Physical Development Model

I came across a few articles in the most recent Strength & Conditioning Journal regarding youth agility training & the factors that go into gaining and improving these abilities. It led me to an article from June 2012 that I found interesting and also encouraging in terms of the direction we’re heading regarding youth/adolescent training. Previously, most training recommendations were made based purely on age, with little attempt to quantify the true physical maturation of a child or adolescent. The old model clearly had many flaws, but this new YPD (Youth physical development) model takes a lot more factors into consideration, and is based largely on when a child reaches peak height velocity and peak weight velocity, along with puberty.

I don’t want to summarize the whole article, but I do have it downloaded in pdf for anyone that wants it [just shoot me a comment or an email]. I really just wanted to share these two graphics that help explain what areas a child’s “training” should be focused on in order to develop to their full athletic potential.

Strength & Conditioning Journal: June 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 61–72

Strength & Conditioning Journal:
June 2012 – Volume 34 – Issue 3 – p 61–72


A similar chart for females:

Strength & Conditioning Journal: June 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 61–72

Strength & Conditioning Journal:
June 2012 – Volume 34 – Issue 3 – p 61–72


The thing most noteworthy for trainers:

-FMS (functional movement screens / mobility) are important, but never the primary focus of a training program. Even in the early stages of development, where training has low structure, the child is learning to develop agility, speed, power and strength simultaneously – and all components are important.

-This spectrum helps trainers decide what category a late developing or early developing child would be in & what components might be more important to emphasize (vs just relying on physical age & “training age”)

-Agility is an under researched component, but may need to be trained & then re-trained after peak height velocity is reached. Agility requires a large neural component (decision making, reaction time) that develops with a child’s maturity. The patterns can be established and trained early, with repeatability helping to form those neural connections, but it may need to be re-visited later if there is a significant growth spurt or change in physical development.

-High intensity metabolic training/endurance training is very low on the priority list until later years/higher structure training. With all the bootcamp trends popping up lately, it is important to remember that children are not “mini adults” and therefore shouldn’t be trained in the same fashion. We have come to terms with the fact that strength training (when done properly) is not going to damage limbs or stunt growth, but it is important to focus on the needs of the development child/athlete and not give them a workout targeted at people looking to lose weight.

-There is predictably a shift in maturity & age when it comes to females vs. males, but the training necessities when they DO reach PHV remain the same.

I like that this model seems to have more of an individualized approach when it comes to assessing a child’s readiness for training and I hope it becomes studied more, tweaked, and eventually widely accepted as a new standard for training.

Survey swag

Hi guys! I promise to do a proper blog post soon, but in the meantime, I need your help!

I’m taking a general survey of as many people as possible to get an idea of their personal fitness preferences and suggestions of what they’d like to see in their particular gym/daily routines. I have the survey on facebook ( – add me as a friend and take it on there!) OR copy/paste and answer the questions via comment on my blog OR you can email me the answers at – I know you all are super busy, but this would help me out a lot 🙂

Also, if you could repost this on your blogs & share with your friends and encourage them to do the same, that’d be amazing. Thanks!


  1. How old are you?
  2. Male or female?
  3. Are you a full time student?  If not, are you working full time?
  4. Do you currently exercise regularly? (> 2x a week)
    1. If yes, what do you do?
    2. If not, why not?
    3. For both: what motivated you to start, or what WOULD motivate you to start? (friends, certain classes being offered, a trainer, etc)
  5. Did you grow up playing sports?
    1. If yes, how many?
  6. Even if you don’t participate regularly, what is your favorite type of fitness activity? (running, playing basketball, swimming, etc)?
  7. Are you more likely to work out alone or with someone?
  8. Do you enjoy the gym atmosphere or would you prefer to be exercising outside?
  9. What are you more likely to spend money on (choose as many as you want):
    1. Nutrition assessment / consultation
    2. Supplements
    3. Personal training & program design
    4. Small group training (3-5 people per group)
    5. Classes (yoga, pilates, boot camps, conditioning)
    6. DVDs (p90x, etc)
    7. Crossfit
    8. Other (please specify)

10. If you already belong to a gym, what services do you use the most (pool, juice bar, cardio, etc)?

11. What would you want to see offered that you aren’t getting currently?

What makes a program “sport-specific”?

Summertime & the living’s easy….unless you’re an athlete.

For most athletes, the summer is actually the busiest and most crucial time of all. Off-season strength & conditioning programs are where a lot of athletes have the time to focus on their bodies and make huge gains in strength- more so than any other point in the season.  With that in mind, it got me thinking about all the components that go into planning for performance enhancement & how to evaluate if a particular program is appropriate for an individual’s sport.

For most people just looking to lose weight, or incur some type of body composition change, this type of evaluation might not be necessary. It doesn’t matter WHEN certain phases occur throughout the year [speed, hypertrophy, strength, etc], and the exercise selection isn’t as narrowly focused. But for an athlete, planning every step of the way is crucial. It is essentially like comparing cooking to baking. With cooking, you can experiment more freely – you can add ingredients, deviate from a recipe, get downright crazy and still probably achieve greatness. Baking, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. There is a reason for everything in the recipe – deviate from the proportions and you’re going to have one dried up cake. But if you plan and you are exact with the measurements, everything will come out balanced and delicious.

Sometimes, however, athletes get so caught up in the little details of the program that they don’t stop to think  “why”. Why certain exercises are included in certain phases (or at all); Why intervals are run with a particular work:rest ratio; Why this program is better suited than that one, etc. It is very rare to come across anything that steps back to really discuss the “big picture”. So this evaluation is to help athletes analyze their sport a bit more, and for coaches to make sure they’re considering all the variables when programming.

There is still some crossover with personal training here, i.e. assessing an athlete for individual goals, physical limitations, previous injuries, training history, etc – because you never want to lose the individuality component.  But what makes a program ideal for a particular sport vs just a really great workout?

Categories of Evaluation

1. Requisite movements by position (the endurance of a point guard is > than a center in basketball, for example. or a midfielder vs an attack player in lacrosse)

2. Energy systems and related dynamics (primary contributors?)

3. Dominant/minimal speeds and related factors (sprinting? long, steady pace? varying intervals?)

4. Force/velocity factors (high speed movements? repeat submaximal efforts?)

5. Factors that determine success outcomes (is flexibility important?, endurance? conditioning?)

6. Factors that limit success (injuries, etc)

7. Morphological relevance (body comp – does the player need size? strength? speed?)

These are just the broad categories to consider when analyzing a particular athlete & their sport. To get more specific, we have the movement analysis that breaks down the sport into specific components to ensure that a program is balanced and focused, the physiological analysis that looks at all the metabolic components, and the limitation analysis that considers the barriers and differences in levels of success.

Movement Analysis

1. Movements used during the activity

2. Speed or rate of movement & frequency

3. Directional/plane variations/speed

4. Muscle-joint considerations and efficiency or resistance to economy

5. Muscle balance, stability, acceleration, deceleration and force couples

Physiological Analysis

1. Energy systems used

2. Duration of power output

3. Magnitude of force demands

4. Frequency of force/recovery

5. Additional physiological demands (i.e. total caloric output)

Limitations Analysis

1. Common injuries in the sport

2. Difference between “good” & “great” (for example, it has been shown that the velocity around the elbow joint is what separates the elite pitchers from the non-elite. other characteristics might include VO2max, or simple body composition factors like height & weight)

3. Recovery/fatigue

4. Flexibility, body fatness, strength/power weight ratio

With all that said, a pre-conditioning evaluation (or fitness assessment) would take into consideration the following:

1. Identify all deficiencies

2. Injury analysis – a past history of the athlete

3. Training history/tenure

4. Training status

5. Physiological assessments

6. Identification of neural efficiency/aptitude

7. Program level decision (beginner, intermed, advanced)

Secondary considerations:

1. Limitations first – flexibility, distortions

2. Minimal strength needs – at least enough

3. Force rate development – power/speed

4. Neural efficiency – skill specific overlap

5. Metabolic conditioning – conditioning vs weight training

As you can see, it is more than just becoming “bigger, faster, stronger”. There is a lot that goes into evaluating an athlete – both at the individual level & for sport application. Using this checklist will help ensure that the program you’re following (or creating) makes sense.

Real women lift REAL weights (3 lb dumbbells need not apply)

Alright, you knew it was coming.  This is my PSA to all females out there who are afraid to lift weights and get strong. I’m going to grit my teeth and make this as nice as possible, so just zip your lips and read.

I’m really just so so so so so so tired of hearing the nonsense girls say when it comes to fitness.  As usual, I blame the Kardashians…. because I blame them for everything.  In reality, though, anyone that endorses those stupid tone-up shoes and has a trainer [Tracy Anderson] that insists: “We don’t want to take away Kim’s amazing curves, so we just do specific movements to tighten the skin and to pull the muscles tight against the bone.” can just fall off the planet.  Yes, she really said that (People Magazine – go ahead, click it, and then lets get #ThingsSmarterThanTracyAnderson to trend on twitter)

Rock > Tracy Anderson

Guess what?  There is no such freaking thing as tightening the skin around your muscles – that’s just gross and weird.  Unless you’re talking some serious Nip/Tuck, you will not find that sort of nonsense occurring in the gym.  That requires a scalpel and some Frankenstein stuff.  Put it out of your mind.

Another thing I need you to forget about is body builders.  You are all brainwashed into thinking that lifting weights = body building, and that if you start picking up weights you’re going to start looking like those tan bikini-clad mini-hulks.  I’m not saying bodybuilding isn’t bad ass, because it is, but most of us aren’t training for that.  To be brutally honest, the extreme amount of dieting, supplementation, discipline and volume of training that it takes to be a bodybuilder is completely out of the relm of possibility for just about all of us…so stop flattering yourself.

Instead of talking about celebrities who aren’t real people, I’m going to make this nice and simple.  Did anyone watch the US women’s soccer team over the summer?  If you didn’t – go sit in the corner. For the rest of you, did Abby Wambach or Hope Solo look like crazies on steroids?  No. Would women kill to be Alex Morgan (or would men kill to be WITH Alex Morgan?) YUP.  Do they all lift weights?  You better believe it. And I’m talking real weights – not cute little colored dumbbells.  They are soccer players.  They squat more than you weigh.

Alex Morgan

Abby Wambach

Reality check: women do not have enough testosterone to become huge no matter how much they lift – and it does not change with the increasing intensity of your work out.  You would need to supplement (legally, or illegally) your face off, and even THEN, you wouldn’t reach the status a man does because of those pesky sex hormones and their fluctuation.  In fact, I DARE YOU to try to bulk up.  Nia Shanks, author of the Beautiful Badass blog and part of the Girls Gone Strong movement (which you should check out, btw) claims to be so confident that you won’t, that if you start training FOR REAL and you get bulky, she’ll allow you roundhouse kick her in the face.  I’m just as confident – so when you’re done kicking her, you can come find me. Be warned: I kick back.

I’ll even use myself as an example.  Now before everyone jumps down my throat, I recognize that I’m actually in the minority.  I put on muscle easier than most, and everyone knows I train with weights, so a lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them they won’t get huge.  Fortunately for all you doubters, I have photo evidence. (NOTE: I do not have access to photoshop or any other fancy editing tool and if I did, I wouldn’t know how to use it.  All these pictures you can find perfectly untouched on my facebook.) Boom.

Before I lifted heavy weights, my body composition was relatively the same, but with higher body fat.  Genetically, I am short and stocky, and I would be whether I decided to play video games, run marathons, or lift weights.  I’ve always been a higher size in clothing, and my measurements have only changed slightly over the years.  Ironically, though, what ended up happening once I started serious training was my waist size decreased, and so did my arm circumference, even though you can see visible muscles now.  This is due to the corresponding decrease in body fat, NOT the excess growth of muscle tissue.  Unfortunately, there was no increase in height despite my huge desire to dunk a basketball. Oh well, another life….

Here is a picture of me playing lacrosse during my freshman year of college.  Besides playing lax and the occasional (awful) gym workout, I was not particularly in shape.  I could do regular body weight push ups, but no pull ups, and I didn’t squat, deadlift, or do anything remotely awesome.

Me in 2007

Notice my arm size (this is important) and the presence of a small gut (haha thats just funny).

Now, here I am junior year, after coming back from an ACL injury, completely changing the way I ate and after doing A LOT of heavy strength training.  At this point in time I could complete a body weight pull up, over 30 push ups, and I was squatting around my body weight (which at the time was 160).

Me in 2009

You’ll see that my broad shoulders are still the same broad shoulders they always were, they didn’t magically appear.  My arms, however, are actually slightly smaller, the gut is mainly gone, and my legs have muscles peaking out – muscles that were there already, NOT ones that hypertrophied enough to warrant a jump in pants size.  In fact, I dropped quite a few pants sizes between freshman and junior year.

Here is a more recent photo of me taken just a few months ago – at this point I can complete 5 WEIGHTED pull ups, squat 225 for reps and deadlift 235 for reps and you’ll notice that not much as changed in my body composition from 2009 to now. The only thing that has increased is my strength (and therefore, my awesomeness)

Me in 2011

So here’s my main message: most of you are smart enough to know that not everything you read in the magazines is the truth.  You know that celebrities are photoshopped, you know diet cleanses are stupid, and you know that being skinny isn’t always healthy.  Well here’s a new one: women can (and should) lift weights without worrying about getting bulky.  Use your brains, because I really want you guys to stop being so afraid to challenge yourself.  You’re missing out on AWESOME workouts – and you’re missing out on GREAT accomplishments.  No one said you had to enter a powerlifting meet, but I hope that by putting myself out there I have helped you realize that strength is something to strive for, not shy away from.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, or you just want to read into this more, please check out this article: (its absolutely hilarious – if you like what I write, you’ll love this). Also check the blog & videos of Nia Shanks.  You’ll thank me for it.  And if you ever use the phrase “I just want to get toned” in my presence, I promise I will go out of my way to make you feel bad. 🙂