Youth Weightlifting Program Development – Part 1

As a coach who has successfully developed more than 100 youth weightlifters over the past 15 years, I am frequently asked for tips on what works well for developing a thriving youth weightlifting program. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to share what has worked well for me in building 3 different youth-focused programs from the ground up.

Before getting into more detail, it is important to know that each of my 3 programs were started out of a school that I worked for as a full-time teacher. My current program, Conqueror Weightlifting, operates as a private facility in Omaha, Nebraska with a satellite operation running out of Beckman High School in Irvine, California where the program began. If building a youth program is your goal, doing so out of a school is always a huge advantage because you have easy access to a large number of kids; however, that is simply not a reality for every coach out there. Whether you are able to build a program out of a school or not, I will share principles that work well regardless of your program’s location.

youth weightlifting
2022 USA Weightlifting National Youth Championship

The first principle in building a successful youth weightlifting program involves a persistent and unrelenting commitment to teaching and reinforcing good technique. This includes both the competition lifts and fundamental barbell movements used for developing general strength qualities. Ultimately, sound technique is the pathway for ensuring long-term success, enjoyment of the sport and resistance to injury. Additionally, lifting with proficient technique is something every individual is capable of regardless of natural athletic ability. This point is especially important as it allows every single individual in your program to make steady progress and enjoy the sport regardless of their competition standings.

From a practical perspective, the following points are what I have focused on over the years to build consistent and proficient technique in each of the athletes in our program.

  • Have simple and clear system for teaching each of the key movements in your program and follow this system with every new athlete

  • Be patient and understand that everyone will progress at a different rate

  • Increase load only as technique allows and remember there is no rush…they are kids!

  • Continue to work fundamentals on a regular basis regardless of the athlete’s skill level…you cannot get too good at mastering the fundamentals

In the next post, we will discuss another principle that is critical in building a successful youth weightlifting program…Making it Fun!

CJ Del Balso, MS, CSCS, RSCC
USAW International Coach

At Conqueror Weightlifting, we offer expert coaching in Olympic weightlifting, strength training fundamentals and sports performance. Are you ready to join Nebraska’s strongest team?