Thursday, May 17, 2012

10 Reasons Why Young Athletes are Easier to Train than Adults

From time to time I meet up with a strength coach that works exclusively with young athletes. He works with youths ranging from ages 12-24--specializing in middle-school, high school, and college sports. Although from time to time he does work with some general population clients--baby-boomers roughly in the age range of 40-64--his predominate clients are young, vibrant, and train with a purpose to excel in their chosen sport. 

Each time we meet up for discussion, he amazes me at how diverse his exercise programs are and how exceptional his athletes achieve the results that they do. His athletes come from all sports including basketball, football, tennis, swimming, baseball, track, and volleyball. He begins each of their programs with an initial consultation (with or without parent); basic assessments involving muscular endurance, core stabilization, and flexibility; and basic bodyweight drills designed to pinpoint specific faults in certain skills. Its a great well-thought approach to exercise design and very similar to what I do with my general population clients. It is also very similar to what alot of trainers do with their adult clients.

How can 2 professionals with almost similar approaches to program design experience different outcomes on the training spectrum? I thought to myself: are young athletes easier to  train than adults? As I drove home from my visit, I began to conjure up a list of reasons why strength coaches that work primarily with young athletes achieve a greater amount of total success than those fitness professionals that work predominately with adults over 35.

1.) Stress - Most adults are faced with greater stressors in life--mostly negative and don't know how to deal with them. Youngsters also face a degree of stress (bullying, peer pressure, grades)--however, there is a support grid made up of family members and school faculty. Adults face stress ranging from job security, finances, family, and health that can inhibit their focus when following an exercise program.

2.) Sedentary Lifestyle - Most adults that work are inactive due to desk jobs, laziness, or boredom. Unlike youngsters involved in scholastic sports, there is no structure involving financial accountability and job performance. Youth athletes benefit from a different kind of structure. They follow a routine consisting of academia, social thrivers, and sport. So if the expectation is not there, don't expect adults to get off their couch to do something unless that are forced to. 

3.) Health Issues - Most adults suffer from a host of health problems beginning with the BIG 3:
hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The genesis of these ailments is inactivity which leads to obesity and overweight-ness. Although many youngsters are experiencing the same illnesses that adults experience; athletes have an ability to prevent and bounce back due to the resources available to them from their school or organization.

4.) Overweight - Obesity rates are higher than ever and that even includes today's youth. Combined with the first 3 reasons described above, adults that are overweight suffer from other disease and medical conditions much more swiftly than younger, more active clients.

5.) Depression - In today's age of mis-diagnosis-quick to prescribe medicine--adults suffer from depression due to stress from family, job, and finance. Adults lack control of their lives and suddenly retract into a dark world of misery and loneliness. With  the onslaught of prescribed medicines to "combat" depression; we find that most adults really only fall further into their spiral of dark despair. 

6.) Poor Posture - Lets face it...adults have been on this earth longer and therefore, have been battling gravity longer. With prolonged static postures at 8-10 hour jobs--combined with inactivity, the typical adult suffers from the most common postural dysfunction: upper and lower crossed syndromes.

7.) Personalities - Adults are more set in their ways. They present Type A or Type B personalities which force fitness professionals to adjust their coaching style several times per day. Young athletes are typically trained in groups and THEY must adjust to the coaching style.When your 54 year old client is a vice-president of a large investment firm, do you really think he wants to be coached in a manner that invokes he is the "subordinate"? Consider this: a youngster are more coach-able.

8.) Orthopedic issues - Most adults will present orthopedics problems stemming from past knee surgeries, hip replacements, frozen shoulders, blah, blah, blah. This list is long. The bottom line is adults have not taken care of themselves for longer period of time than today's youth. Their bodies are weathered. They have neglected their bodies for a longer period of time and therefore, are paying the price now. Fitness professionals need to adjust, modify, and help correct certain aspects of the kinetic chain to make the exercise program enjoyable, pain-free, and effective.

9.) Financial Justification - Most athlete programs are funded by parents or the school system or a possible sponsor. Parents can rationalize spending the dollars on their children more than themselves when it comes to physical fitness. Why? Parents view their children as "still having a chance" to achieve a dream or great feat. This brings us back to the adult client. Why doesn't an adult view this the same way? Adults cannot justify spending the money on personal training or fitness because they face other expenses where they need to funnel their hard-earned money to. When it comes to personal health, adults try to rationalize with themselves by procrastinating, or trying to get healthier on their own. When they fail, they finally seek out a personal trainer. Certain adults are skeptical of this expense simply because they lack the confidence, commitment, and motivation needed to succeed. 

10.) Motivation/Adherence - How many times has an adult client canceled a session on you? Emergencies, unexpected events, long work hours, and picking the kids up a daycare are all REAL excuses that adults face today. Along with reason #1 (of this list), adults face an uphill battle when adhering to an exercise program in which the fitness professional MUST demonstrate empathy--however, be tactful and concrete when establishing exceptions. Adults are accountable to many things during the day which makes it difficult to maintain a level of motivation that will be consistent through a duration of 4-8 weeks (or longer). Most young athletes will arrive de-motivated and disconcerted to a session, but soon become motivated due to the positive group dynamics of team training.

So I implore: who's job is harder? The strength coach who trains youngsters or the trainer who trains adults?


  1. Very interesting article, John. I always enjoy your insight and intellect with respect to this industry. At first glance (I'm a 'take time to muse' sorta guy) I'm fairly certain I disagree with many of your points. That doesn't take away from the fact this article is very well written and well thought out. I'm going to try to find the time to write a 'retort-type' article (simply because I think the topic you've proposed is incredibly interesting). As always, John... Incredibly well done! BG

  2. Thanks Brian, I think it is a intriguing topic that really divides the fitness industry and also brings it together. Can't wait to read your article. Thanks for posting!

  3. Right on the money. Great post, John.


Thanks for checking out the blog and commenting!