Junior Tee - Transitioning to weight training

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By Karen Palacios-Jansen
with Dave Herman

With all the buzz about golf fitness you may be anxious to get your young golfer started with strength training to give them an edge over their competition, but since their young bodies are still growing and developing it is important to know what type of training your young athlete should and should not be doing for their body type and age to keep them safe and injury free.

“When it comes to conditioning for a prepubescent golfer, the best way to start them off is with light resistance loads using a variety of equipment including elastic bands that come in progressive tensions, medicine balls, and even their own body weight,” says our own GFM Advisory Team member Dave Herman. Herman who trains the 2008 Masters Champion Trevor Immelman and LPGA Tour sensation Suzann Pettersen also coaches many young rising golf stars. He is currently training 13-year-old teen golf sensation Cindy Feng, who, since 2007, has won more than 10 tournaments on the Florida Junior Golf Tour and broke an AJGA record in 2008 with the most consecutive wins in a single season. When Herman first started working with Feng, he had her doing lots of core stabilization and speed development exercises with elastic bands and elastic cords, having her focus on proper technique and form to learn at an early age how important technique is in protecting her body.  Now that she has turned 13, they have transitioned into lifting dumbbells and cables to help her gain more strength while she continues working on and improving her game with her coach David Leadbetter. “Cindy is naturally flexible with a strong set of lower body wheels, so we are focusing on improving her rotational speed and upper body strength,” says Herman. 

When a junior golfer begins resistance training, it is important to choose activities that match their structural changes, genetics and their body types. “People assume that children are naturally flexible, but some kids may be tight because they don’t stretch, postural issues or because of family genetics. Frequently we begin their programs with neutral spine stabilization exercises and lots of band stretching to get the pelvis stable and joint flexibility to increase ranges of motion.  Some kids may be naturally strong, but may need to work on decreasing body fat, so it is important to look at each child individually and design a program based on their needs,” says Herman.

Herman says that typically, it is a good idea for younger children to stay away from heavier high-risk weight training and to begin strength training with light weights using push-pull exercises to create muscular tone and balance through the same planes.  An example of a push-pull exercise would be a dumbbell chest press followed by a dumbbell lat row. As the teenager grows older with a more solid athletic foundation they can begin to move into higher volume sets and advanced strength training exercises.

There are a few rules that you should be aware of when it comes to exercise for children under the age of 18. 

1.   Consult your child’s doctor before starting any exercise program.

2.  Children who are just beginning to be physically active should start out slowly and gradually build to higher levels in order to prevent the risk of injury.

3. Children should always perform simple basic “low risk” exercises, concentrating on good form.

4.  Fitness and exercise for children should be a fun and positive experience.

5.  Children under the age of 13 should not lift heavy weights.

6.  Always supervise your child when they are exercising.  Many injuries occur simply by lifting a dumbbell off the rack or floor improperly.


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