As the son of a successful high school football coach and being a former high school and college football player myself, I have heard this a thousand times.
“My son needs to gain some weight! What does he need to do?”
To be honest with you, my answer over the years has changed. But the more I have surrounded myself with wiser, more experienced people and the more I have experimented with myself and those around me, the more I have learned.
I have put together a handful of things that I have seen over the years that work for high school kids to gain strength and mass.
1. Make sure the kid wants to do it and it’s not just the parents’ idea.
The absolute worst thing a parent can do is to live vicariously through their kids. The scenario goes 1 of 3 ways:
• Mom and Dad were average athletes that never really were what they considered a “success.”
• They were good athletes that screwed it up somewhere along the way.
• They were very successful athletes and they want their kid to be like them.
In all 3 of the above situations the parents push and push their kids to practice, workout, and play, causing the kids to resent the sport and the parents. This is getting more and more prominent in today’s society. All of the major sports are year-round these days. Baseball has fall ball, spring ball and travel ball. Basketball has school ball then AAU where they travel all over creation playing in gyms for hours on end. Football has the season, pre-season, combined season and camp season. Kids have to want to play and have to LOVE the game because when the LOVE is gone, it’s not fun anymore. When it’s not fun, it becomes a job. When it becomes a job, it becomes a problem. Kids have all their life to work. It’s a game. Let them play.
2. GET STRONG…don’t worry about “gaining weight.”
People equate weight with more strength and that is the furthest from the truth. Kids (14 and up) need to focus on getting stronger. Don’t look at the number on the scale. Look at the number on the bar. This may be the most important statement I make in this whole article. PARENTS: if your kids want to get “bigger,” do some research and find them a coach that is a stickler for technique. Don’t just ask your best friend. Ask people who know about fitness and know how to squat, press & deadlift properly. The last thing you want is for your kid to be taught improper technique and get hurt. Teach them technique and don’t let them go up until their movement is as close to perfect as it can get. Strength should be the focus, not weight gain.
3. Make sure they are eating WHOLE FOODS.
Eat real foods that come from an animal or from the earth. Stay away from processed food and fast food. As a parent, if you are really concerned with your child’s well being, you will spend a little extra time making sure you are giving them the best food possible. You have to wake up earlier or go to bed later so you can make sure you are spending the time to get good fuel in their body. Feed your kids sweet potatoes after workouts. Make sure the protein they are getting is from an animal, such as beef, chicken, pork or fish. Eat things that are green. You may be thinking this right now: “My kids will not eat vegetables.” First of all, that is probably your fault because at a young age you made it ok for them to sit at the table and not try everything on their plate. You tell yourself “they just don’t like veggies” but they don’t like them because you did not expose them to it. It takes effort to give your kids good food. There is still hope. When you cook green stuff, cook it in bacon. Bacon makes everything better. (Sorry for the soapbox).
Think of it this way. Regular kids that don’t play sports are like a Nissan Sentra. It’s a good car that just needs you stop at the gas station and get some gas. That is the fuel they need to hang out with friends and go to the movies, go to the mall and hang out in the Wal-Mart parking lot. As athletes, their bodies are like a NASCAR. You have to put a higher quality product in the engine. When was the last time you saw Dale Jr. at the local gas station gassing up the car he is going to race on Sunday? Athletes need higher quality fuel because they are burning so much throughout games, practices and workouts. If you are not sure, ask someone. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help. Feed’em good food, folks.
A friend of mine has 2 kids in high school and they have a rule at their house: after a certain time at night, the phones go off and go in the parents’ room. I have 2 kids myself and when mine have a cell phone, this rule will be implemented in our home. Why? Kids need to sleep. This generation has so much to keep them occupied from smart phones to IPads to desktop computers to television. There is an unlimited supply of information out there and kids will consume it or play games on all the electronic devices they have. The body releases the most testosterone and growth hormones when a person is sleeping; the better quality sleep a kid has, the more likely he is to be better at the next day’s game, practice, or workout. They need good quality sleep.
If your kids are doing the above things they will get stronger, and with strength comes size. There has to be proper technique when they are lifting. Strength in compensated positions will lead to the wrong kind of development, especially if the kids are starting young. Patience and persistence are the keys that lead to a successful outcome. If you are a parent of an athletic kid, look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are one of the above parents. If you are real brave, ask someone that will be honest with you if you are one of the above parents. Seek advice from people who get paid to help people get fit and strong. Feed your kids great quality food and make your kids go to sleep at night.
Parents: “You can’t push a rope.” Kids have to want to be great. The best advice I can give is for you to be the example of hard work and persistence. Kids are sponges. They soak up whatever is around them. The question is what are you giving them to soak up?