Lifting at a Young Age

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Thanks for your great articles and for the guidance you provide here.

I’m planning to buy your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual and had asked a question over on and Omri asked me to post it here:

I have enjoyed lifting for the past 30 years and now my 11 and 12-year-old nephews are training with me in the weight room. They are making tremendous gains in strength and are very enthusiastic about our workouts. Family members are appreciative of the time I spend helping them and can see the results, but they are also expressing concerns because of their young age.

The boys are in early and mid-puberty and are both tall for their age (5’7″). They have a great-uncle who is 6’10”, so they will possibly be pretty big. They’re growing very fast right now.

Their family has a history of knee problems on both sides of the family. Also three generations of hernia weaknesses on one side of the family. The older boy has very flat feet, but they seem to still enjoy running and sports (tennis and volleyball).

Are there any lifts that we should be avoiding at this stage? Any dangers of bone damage, hernias, etc? I realize that you would have to send them to a Dr. for a physical in order to give a certain answer, and standard disclaimers apply, but considering that they both seem to be perfectly healthy and doing very well, it doesn’t seem like the program is doing anything but good at this point.

I have helped them see what proper form looks like and they are both adamant about form (and they tell ME when I’m not using proper form!).

Would appreciate any insight, especially things I need to watch out for which could be doing more harm than good.

Thanks again.

Your goal should be to expose them to a wide variety of movements and set them up for success. Keep it interesting and FUN. Avoid maximal loading, obviously, but do work to incorporate quantifiable progressive overload for the kids; it’ll keep them motivated. Start with plenty of body weight drills; get them stable at the lumbar spine, shoulders, and knees, and mobile at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine. That’ll set them up for success long-term. Getting them barefoot more often is great.

The weight-training will actually help tremendously in avoiding that “clumsy” stage that occurs when guys grow a lot in a short amount of time.

Avery Faigenbaum from The College of New Jersey has some good writing on this subject, and Brian Grasso ( is the king of training young athletes. GREAT reading material.

Good luck!

Eric Cressey