Is Youth Strength Training Safe and Effective?

Is preteen strength training safe? Does strength training stunt youth growth? Won’t they get hurt? Can they handle workload? Will they get results? How does it transfer to game play?

Youth strength training is a highly debated topic that has many myths, questions and concerns. I am here to put these myths to rest and show you that strength training among a youth population aged 6-13 yrs old can be safe and effective.



Exploration II


First and foremost I would like to address the myth on how youth strength training can have negative effects on growth. Studies show that youth strength training can have many beneficial factors such as an increase in bone density, bone health and bone growth with no negative effects associated with growth development. This information is supported by the American College of Sports Medicine, American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and National Strength and Conditioning Association.

If youth strength training does occurs with improper technique, improper workloads, limited experience and no supervision there is a higher risk for injury including the possibility of damage to youth growth plates. It is key that as a coach or parent you have the knowledge and personal experience of how to execute strength based exercises as well as use age appropriate exercises, workload, rep scheme and cues to ensure safety and success.


What exactly is age appropriate in terms of exercises, repetitions, workload, cues and more?


When it comes to our youngest age group 6-9 yrs old developing strength is much easier than you think. This age group is still developing basic motor skills. Therefore basic body weight exercises like lunges, jumping or most primal movements can qualify as strength training. To further help 6-9 yrs old discover new movements it is essential to make it fun to practice any given skill.

For example lunges are a great strength based exercise for 6-9 yrs old as it incorporates leg strength and core strength. To make it fun we call our overhead lunges, monster walks where we pretend to be a big scary monster that gets tall and small as he/she walks down the turf and monsters don’t let their knees touch the ground. This make it fun as they practice a great fundamental strength based skill. To help further cue specific exercises be creative and make it fun. With monster walks we will ask to see their scary monster face to help them keep eyes up and chest proud as they hold strong posterior when they execute the exercise. Monster walks are just one example, think of other body weight based movements through all planes of motion like Frog Hops, Lateral Gorilla Walks, Bear Crawls, Jump Rope and more as they will assist a 6-9 yr old in getting strong all around and from top to bottom.





As we continue the 10-13 yr old age group is most often pressured to start weight training to get a competitive edge on their opponents. With this age group it is important for us to help them start to build a solid foundation that will have an impact on them as they grow and develop naturally. We will focus on body weight based exercises like squats, lunges, bear crawls, planks and push-ups to ensure they can control their own body weight when in challenging positions. We can start to be more specific with our cues but don’t overwhelm your athletes as you should focus on no more than 2 of the most critical aspects of the exercise. When they begin to develop confidence and build strong movement patterns we will start to incorporate appropriate external loads. An external load is an outside factor that will have an impact on the given skill or exercise. In this scenario our first step is to introduce resistance band based exercises starting with fixed point exercises such as tug of war rows, assisted push ups or resisted presses. In order to progress skills try non-fixed exercises or partner drills like wall pull apart, standing overhead push press, partner runs, partner lunges and much more.

Some of our advanced level 10-13 yr old who’ve built solid foundations and movement patterns have been given the opportunity to move beyond the resistance band and introduced to free weight exercises like dumbbell box squats, dumbbell RDL, KB swings and weighted hip lifts.No need to go too heavy…groove a strong movement pattern with light external loads to help build the foundation now that will allow them to excel in the weight room and beyond. Finally when using external loads like resistance bands and free weights it is extremely important that you lay down the rules of using any given exercise tool as well as use age appropriate resistance, sets and repetitions as safety is priority.




Important things to consider with this 10-13 yr old age group is they are extremely diverse across the board from video gamer’s to club sport athletes we personally have chosen to divide this group into two level classes allowing us to meet our youth where they are physically, mentally and socially. Also their bodies are making big changes causing mobility issues and aches or pains while dealing with added stress. It is essential to meet your athletes where they are on that given day as there is no need to force previously planned strength training for this age group as our main focus is to maintain or increase movement efficiency, make exercise or training fun and teach healthy habits because that is what will have an immediate impact on the field, track, court or ice.       


While we try to build a foundation for all our younger aged athletes as we enter the 14+ age group we tend to see a wider variety of experience and ability levels. This age group is considered physically mature enough to start traditional strength training but it is extremely important to build a solid foundation by starting simple and working your way up as we don’t wanna cause more harm than good.

With the pressure to compete at a high level weight training can be essential for a  high school athletes success but it’s not all about “how much?” or “how many?” but in fact about “how well?. If you can build a solid foundation and work your way up, you will minimize plateau’s, increase strength, increase injury resistance, increase power as well as maximize the amount of skill transferred from the gym to the actual game .


High School Strength


Overall, youth strength training is safe and effective for all age groups as long as age appropriate application applies. First help the 6-9 yr old discover movement patterns through all planes of motion using strictly body weight and by making it fun. Give the 10-13 yr old the opportunity to explore, ask questions and start to give short explanations as to why and how to execute given exercises. Focus on body weight movement efficiency and start to introduce resistance bands, hang trainers and light free weights. Finally when the athlete reaches the high school group it is important to set goals, give responsibility, explain how to execute skill, how it transfers to games as well as discuss how real results take hard work, dedication, good nutrition and safe effective training. In conclusion strength training at any age level has potential risks when executed poorly but when in an age appropriate setting strength training carries many benefits for all ages.


“Train Smarter not necessarily Harder”

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Keeping Kids Healthy

Here is a great article written by coach Kevin O’Neill.

Keeping Kids Healthy

As a parent of 2 rowdy boys and a Sports Performance coach who works with kids as young as 6 years old, it is great to see kids being active. Its doesn’t matter if its organized games, creative play, or running around the back yard. Active kids usually equal happy and healthy kids. That’s a great thing.

With activity can come everyday bumps and bruises. We recently had a checkup for my 3-year-old son, who is always bumping into things and constantly has bruises on his legs. One of the things our Pediatrician mentioned is that she loves seeing bumps, scrapes, and bruises on kids legs because it means they are active. While that does sound a bit cryptic, she has a great point.

While the activity for kids is a great thing, there is a growing problem amongst today’s youth and too much specialized activity. Kids who specialize in 1 sport are at a higher risk to sustain overuse injuries than kids who are multi sport athletes. Our friends at The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention recently shared a great USA Today article on the subject of youth sports and overuse injuries.

Here are a few important highlights from the article:

–       Overuse injuries to tendons, bones and joints can result from playing the same sport and performing the same movements too often, too hard or at    too young an age with inadequate recovery time.

–       Young athletes who played a single sport for more hours a week than years they were old — such as a 10-year-old who played 11 or more hours of soccer — were 70% more likely to experience serious overuse injuries.

–       Letting the body rest, adding preventive and strengthening exercises, and following proper technique are among injury prevention strategies.

So how do we keep our young athletes healthy? At Athletic Revolution, we focus on achieving this through a number of methods:

1)   Educate parents and coaches about the risk of overuse injuries. Explain that young kids don’t need to specialize and play a sport year round. Having a multi sport athlete will actually help decrease overuse injuries and also help prevent “burnout” that is so often seen in kids by the time they enter their high school years.

2)   Educate the kids on what they are doing. We are always talking to the kids about why we are doing something and how it will benefit them. This can be as basic as telling a 6 year the importance of a good athletic stance, as intermediate as telling a 11 year old the benefits of foam rolling and muscle activation, and as advanced as telling a high school athlete how the Olympic lifts will improve explosiveness and rate of force development.

3)   We rarely specialize. We work hard to improve our kids multi directional movement patterns and multi positional strength. The goal is have our kids strong and moving well regardless of the sport they play or position they are put in.  We rarely perform sports specific drills or exercises. A well-rounded and bulletproof athlete is our goal.

4)    We get kids stronger. Improved strength is a goal with all our kids regardless of age. Our 6 year olds improve their strength through bodyweight exercises. As our kids get older and mature, we progress with med balls, dumbbells, and barbells as they progress appropriately through our programs. Most all sports now are at the very least contact sports. Basketball, soccer, and baseball are all sports where contact will and probably should occur. Football, wrestling, lacrosse, and hockey are more collision sports with greater impacts occurring. Improved strength will not only help kids perform their sports better, they will help them stay healthy through this contact and collision. As an old coach once told me, “Its better to be the hammer than the nail”.

5)   We have fun. We make sure our kids have fun during their training at AR. Too often kids have fun taken away from them by coaches, teachers, peer leaders, etc. They are kids. Kids should have fun.


If you are a parent, have kids who play youth sports, or coach youth sports, the full referenced article can be found here: . It’s a good and informative read and I strongly suggest it.


Kevin O’Neill MS, USAW, CSCS, YSF-1

Sports Performance Coach

Athletic Revolution South Shore



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Speed for 10-13 year old athletes

Speed is an absolute game changer.










Every athlete wants it.

Every parent wants it for their young athlete and that is the number one reason (confidence building is #2) why parents enroll their children in our athletic development programs.

Why do some kids get faster…before their peers?

Why do some kids seem to get slower?

Why do some kids seem like they are not getting faster?

The litany of questions could continue, but I think you get my point.  For the purposes of this short blog post I will not dive into the developmental process of human beings as it relates to athletic performance;  the systematic programming consideration of coaching the skills required to become faster on the field, court or ice;  or the internal and external factors that can positively or negatively effect the process of getting faster…

I will instead paint a picture of a young athlete, allowing you to as a parent, trainer or coach to come to an accurate understanding of the complexities of speed development.

Here is the scenario:

  • 11 years old
  • Awesome kid!
  • Great work effort
  • Male/Female (inconsequential)
  • Multiple team sport participation in one season (3 separate teams)
  • Malnourished (Not adequate calories nor sound food choices)
  • Sleep deprived
  • 6+ hours of school per day (sitting)
  • Academic pressures
  • Reoccurring joint related/soft tissue injuries
  • Social obligations and pressures
  • Recent growth spurt
  • Hormonal changes
  • Physical changes
  • Immature muscles
  • Low training age (Little to know athletic performance training history)
  • 1 Training session per week to work on speed

This, my friend is not the exception…it is the norm.

Let’s for just a moment compare the above mentioned athlete to one of the pro athletes we train at Athletic Revolution.

  • 24 years old
  • Physically mature
  • Hormonally stable
  • 8-10 hours of sleep per night
  • Sound nutrition and adequate caloric intake
  • 1 practice per day (on non game days) for 1.5 hours
  • Medical and athletic training staff to manage injuries and soreness
  • Naps during the day
  • Consistent and systematic athletic performance program including recovery weeks.
  • 1 day per week public appearance or media interview


Clearly the demands of the 11 year old child outweigh those of the professional athlete by a large margin.

The question I have is this…

WHY do we as a society continue to choose quantity over quality?

It is time we, as parents, begin making decisions for our kids that take these illustrations into consideration.

I have watered down this post on purpose. If you do not understand the conclusion being drawn here please comment below!

Wondering what to do?

Register for our athletic development programs that are specifically designed to improve all aspects of athleticism including SPEED. You can try us out for 2 weeks FREE by clicking here.

See you soon!

Coach Dave





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Summer Team Sports Performance Training

Summer Team Sports Performance Training


Bring in your team or put together a team of friends and take your game to the next level..together!  (minimum of ten athletes)

There are certain training principles that are crucial to the short and long term success of any young athlete.  We not only understand this at Athletic Revolution, we live by it.  Our athletes train hard on the skill and proficiency of performing activities that improve speed, agility, strength, power and injury resistance.


*Pick your own days and times

*Build camaraderie and trust between teammates

*Sports specific




*Agility and Quickness

*Flexibility and Mobility

*FUN and so much more!



“The speed and agility training I have received at Athletic Revolution has had a major impact on my Game”

-Kevin Alston

2010 New England Revolution Defensive Player of the Year

2010 MLS All-Star


For more information send an email to


To register your team click here to download our registration form.


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Around the World for Better Balance Training

Dynamic Balance is a vital component to athleticism and ultimate success on the field, court or ice.

In this short clip, Coach Dave discusses and demonstrates one of his favorite activities for fostering dynamic balance, body awareness, active range of motion and active static stretching for 6-13 year old athletes.


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Athletic Testing and Promotion Results

There are no words to accurately describe the energy, emotion, and utter athleticism that reigned over Athletic Revolution this past Saturday! We are so proud of all of you!

Testing, evaluating and assessing young athletes is and should be a continual process.  Those terms are all synonymous with each other.  One overlooked commonality they have is that they are largely misunderstood.  All to often the concept of grading young athletes is based solely on performance measures that illustrate how far, how far, how fast and how much.  A key problem with this connotation is it lacks a the emphasis  on the very skills required to perform any movement or exercise.

The Athletic Revolution Testing and Promotion System is based on 9 levels of achievement based on skill aptitude, character and fitness level.

This was our biggest Testing and Promotion Day EVER!!

Discovery Phase 1 (white)

Zach Phinney
Nathan Rossi
Matthew Wolf
Owen Mayer
Lily Jones
Matthew Buzalsky
Jillian Pillard
Meg Campbell

Discovery Phase 2 (orange)

Jack Willshire
Jacob Lyons

Discovery Phase 3 (black)

Andrew Gleason
Daniel Ellis

Exploration Phase 1 (white)

Sean Meaney
Matt Kreckie
Jenna Qualter

Exploration Phase 2 (orange)

Trevor Gleason
Bo Rinkus
Justin Troia
Serge Canepa
Cameron Maggiore

Exploration Phase 3 (black)

Tyler Mello


Thank you to all who participated!  A huge THANK YOU to all the parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors who filled our facility to encourage, support and cheer on our young champions!!



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The Best Sports Performance Workout EVER?

Youth fitness and athletic development is much more that merely a program to make kids tired.

WATCH THIS to see what I mean!


See you soon!

Coach Dave


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ACL Injuries: Trending in the wrong direction

As see in the OLD COLONY MEMORIAL newspaper and Wicked Local Plymouth

Trending in the Wrong Direction

ACL injuries in female athletes on the rise



On a recent Saturday night, the U.S. Women’s National Team debuted its 2011 World Cup team in a pre-World Cup friendly match against Japan. Less than 30 minutes after coming onto the field, one of the top players in U.S. history, midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, tore her ACL for the second time in the same knee. She would miss her chance to play in the World Cup.

Across the globe, some of the fittest female soccer players continue to suffer ACL tears. Norway lost one of its top players – Melissa Wiik. The Asian Football Confederation Women’s Footballer of the Year, Australia’s Kate Gill, tore her ACL in early May. Both players will miss the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Chicago’s Leah Fortune, 20, who plays for the Brazilian Women’s National Team, tore her ACL just minutes into her first-ever match for the senior Brazilian team.

This year in Women’s Professional Soccer, two players – Jordan Angeli, 24, of the Boston Breakers and Lindsey Johnson, 23, of Sky Blue FC – tore their ACLs and will miss the rest of the 2011 season.

“The level of competition is only one of many factors that can contribute to an ACL tear,” said National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Dave Gleason, a former Silver Lake soccer standout who runs Athletic Revolution with his wife, Andrea. “Although their fitness level may be high, they may be performing with movement patterns that can be incorrect. When the body moves incorrectly, undue stress is placed on structures such as the ACL.”

If ACL tears can happen to the most fit athletes in the world, what about younger players, college and high school kids?

“I have seen ACL and other soft tissue injuries in young female athletes as young as 12 years old. Many of my colleagues around the country have reported ACL tears younger and younger,” Gleason said. “Unfortunately, many of our new members come to us because of a pre-existing injury. I worked with a women’s college soccer team in the summer of 2009, and I was shocked to see over half the team was either wearing a knee brace or had had an ACL surgery or two.”

Gleason was a four-year starter and co-captain of the Division 1 Silver Lake Regional High School soccer team that brought the school its first-ever state championship. In January 2010, Dave was inducted into his high school’s athletic Hall of Fame as an individual and as a member of the 1988 State championship team. As a Division 2 Second Team All-New England captain for Keene State College, Gleason capped his athletic career and began his professional career in Westchester County, N.Y.

Gleason, the 2010 IYCA Trainer of the Year, has coached young athletes for two decades, dating back to 1989 as a soccer coach to hundreds aspiring soccer players. In the mid to late 90s, he served as a strength coach for some of the most successful young tennis players in New England. He has served as a strength and conditioning coach for private swim club teams and has worked individually with hundreds of children 6-18 years old with a wide ranging ability level.

The youngest person Gleason has seen tear an ACL was a 16-year-old boys’ lacrosse player. On the girls’ side, the number of ACL tears in younger athletes has steadily increased.

“The rise in ACL injuries is due to a variety of reasons,” Gleason said. “The hyper-competitive nature of youth sports does not discriminate against any gender. The rush for more practice, more speed and better conditioning in the absence of proper warm ups, skill development and training programs to prepare a young female athlete for athletics are all contributors to the increase in non-trauma ACL injuries.


Preventative measures

Gleason is running a high school girls’ soccer strength and conditioning program this summer, specifically focusing on ACL prevention. The training program is designed exclusively for young female athletes and will focus on systemic strength training, muscle tissue quality, muscle activation, general preparation, strength technique/movement skill and proficiency, and power execution/systemic strength/movement execution.

“There are several ways to increase injury resistance,” Gleason said. “While no program can guarantee complete prevention, there are three top factors that are a must in order to keep an athlete safe.”

Gleason highlighted three areas – leg strength, warm-up, and jump technique.

“The hamstring (back of the thigh) and the glute muscles work together to help keep the knee joint in proper alignment during movement,” Gleason said when talking about leg strength. “These muscles must be strong for an athlete to stay safe and well-guarded.”

He pointed to an example called, “Lying Bridges.”

“Hamstring and glute muscles can be strengthened in a variety of ways, but one of the best places to start is by having the athlete lie on their back with knees bent,” Gleason said. “Lift their hips off the ground and ‘squeeze’ their butt muscles.”

For the warm-up, Gleason said, “A proper, well planned warm-up is essential prior to every training session, practice or game. Much more than just taking a lap and stretching, a good warm-up serves to engage the control centers in every joint.”

His example: Balance.

“Warming up should involve a lot of factors, including engaging the control centers of each joint,” Gleason said. “Have the athletes perform one-leg balance exercises as part of the warm-up to ensure that the knee joint is 100 percent ready.”

For jump technique, Gleason said: “Learning how to jump and land is an incredibly important part of keeping athletes safe.  More than just doing ‘plyos,’ teaching the proper execution of jumping and landing in paramount. Although jumping is not seen as transferable to all sports, it actually is. Jump training done in the correct manner correlates to the acceleration and absorption forces the body has to deal with when sprinting, stopping and changing direction.”

His example: Instruction.

“As part of the warm up, teach the athletes how to safely and effectively jump and land using toe-off and heel landing strike positions,” he said.


First-hand experience

Manya Makoski, who currently plays soccer for Thor/KA in Iceland’s top-flight league, previously played in Women’s Professional Soccer for the Los Angeles Sol (2009) and was a member of the Atlanta Beat. But during the Beat’s 2010 preseason, Makoski tore her ACL.

But unlike a broken bone, most athletes who tear their ACL are mobile and can put a slight amount of pressure on their knees.

“I was able to walk off the field and walk around that day,” said the 27-year-old from Bridgeport, Conn. “My knee didn’t swell up or hurt until the next day.”

Makoski said, however, she knew something was wrong the moment the tear happened. She recently authored an article for the global women’s soccer publication, Our Game Magazine, called “Mental Toughness,” where she talked about her injury, the mental toll it took on her, and the recovery timeline, which for most athletes can run anywhere from six to 10 months.

“When I tore my ACL it was really weird. I faked to go one way, to the left, planted with my left, to try to go to the right, (and) I just felt it tear, said the former Arizona State University star was on the 2002 U.S. Under-19 World Cup Team that won the FIFA World Championships in Canada. “I immediately went to the ground because I knew I did something bad to my knee. It didn’t hurt at all, and I didn’t hear a pop, but I just knew that it was bad. It was really sickening to feel your ACL tear.”



Makoski returned to action earlier this spring, playing soccer competitively on the professional level for the first time in more than a year. During her preseason with Thor/KA she began to feel more comfortable out on the field and started scoring goals left and right.

“I am over a year from my surgery,” she said. “Since recovering ‘fully’ from my ACL tear, I have realized that you are never really fully recovered. Rehab was a very hard mental and physical test for me. It was one of the most grueling things I have had to do in my career. Every day is devoted to your rehab – how you can get stronger, get more range of motion, get more confidence. The more effort and work you put into your rehab, the better off you are going to be in the long run. Even today, I am still focusing on those aspects. But I definitely believe you come out fitter and stronger than you were before because of that rehab. Yes, I may still have to ice my knee after training or going for a run, but I am no less of an athlete because of that.”

Gleason said that the best course of rehab depends on the severity of the injury and taking into account if surgery is needed to fix the tear.

“Often, rehab will include reducing swelling, reestablishing a full range of motion, strengthening the muscles of the front and back of the thigh, as well as muscle sequencing,” he said. “As soon as possible, the athlete needs to engage in activities that are complex in nature, involving several muscle groups, to ensure proper overall function and movement quality,” Gleason said. “An injury of this nature is many times an opportunity to assess other possible dysfunction or movement patterns that could cause issue in the future.”

However, Gleason cautioned people about training programs, and urged that injury resistance is key.

“Beware,” Gleason said. “Not all sports performance training programs are rooted in skill development and injury resistance. Most programs and facilities add to the pressure of performing at a high level for younger and younger athletes. In many ways, young athletes are more dependent on training programs that will deliver coaching, instruction, and a progressive system for making them better. Better performance does not need to be the goal because with the proper training it will be the outcome in addition to injury resistance.”




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1 Million Children Hire Personal Trainers

Coaches Corner by Dave Gleason

As seen in the Pembroke Mariner and

1 Million Children Hire Personal Trainers

According to multiple sources, including MSNBC and Newsweek, more than 1 million children hire a personal trainer every year in the United States. The rate of youth obesity and the increased competitive nature of youth sports are cited as the major reasons for this relatively new phenomenon.

It is critical for parents to understand that when hiring a personal trainer for their child’s physical fitness needs, they pay close attention to the trainer’s qualifications and experience related to working with this specific demographic.

The following is a checklist for parents to use when hiring a personal trainer for their child:

1. Ask about the trainer’s schooling and continuing education. A degree in exercise science or related allied health field is preferable. Also, a certification as a Youth Fitness Specialist should be considered a primary requirement. Many nationally accredited certification organizations offer professional trainers education and credentials in fitness or sport training, but only the Youth Fitness Specialist certification from the International Youth Conditioning Association offers a specialized education for personal trainers in the aspects of working with children and adolescents.

2. Ask about the trainer’s experience working with children. Most personal trainers have experience working with adult clients, but only Youth Fitness Specialists have experience and exposure working with children and adolescents for weight loss and sports performance needs.

3. Ask to watch the trainer in action working with children. Personal trainers should be happy to have prospective parents view a training session in order to ascertain how well the trainer relates to children and adolescents.

Coach Dave Gleason, owner of Athletic Revolution in Pembroke instructs trainers, coaches and parents for the International Youth Fitness Association. For more information on the qualifications, experience and philosophy a youth fitness trainer needs to have call Gleason at 781-312-7808 or visit his website

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Balance Training for 10-13 year olds

Core strength and balance are important components of successful sports performance.  Training these elements in young athletes can be fun and challenging or boring and time consuming.  Static and dynamic balance can effectively be trained by partnering young athletes together and using an implement to “battle” for balance supremacy.

At Athletic Revolution I will use ropes, balls, resistance bands and even PVC pipes (usually utilized for teaching bar skills) as the implement.  As a coach you can regress or progress depending on the skill and aptitude of your young athletes.

Some rules or boundaries you can easily layer in are:

  • First person to put their other foot down loses the match
  • One hand hold only
  • No hopping allowed
  • Eyes closed
  • Two feet


Here is an example of this activity in action…


This game is can also be a great equalizer of strength and a terrific example in teaching young athletes the difference in absolute strength vs functional strength.

See you soon!

Coach Dave






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