The above video is of Darcy deadlifting 30kg for 8 reps. This is here first ever deadlift attempt and she is only 12 years old. It highlights two main points for me.
1. The importance of having a good base of many different sports and movement patterns before the age of 12.
2. Its not dangerous to start lifting weights at a young age if the coach programs effectively and doesn't use maximal loads.
Having a good base
90% of your coordination is developed by age 12. After that you struggle to improve it very much. I learnt this from Charles Poliquin many years ago and I find it to be very true. I am fortunate enough to see many young athletes as my role as coach at the Western Suburbs Magpies and also here at THP and I see many of these young kids struggle to learn new skills, find it hard to adjust their bodies to given cues, have slower reaction time, and a lack of spatial awareness. This is becoming more and more pronounced each year and I think it has to do with a lack of kids outside playing as much as previous generations, the overuse of technology, and in some cases the specialisation in a given sport at too young of an age.
For Darcy to be able to pick up on cues so easily after just 3 weeks of general preparation work and adapt it to a deadlift on her first attempt now seems to be something out of the norm but really it shouldn't be. Speaking with her over the past few weeks she has mentioned many different sports she has done such as boxing, jiu-jitsu, karate, and she plays rugby league. These are just the ones I have heard, I'm sure there is even more in there. So she has been exposed to many different movement patterns at a young age and you can see how that is already benefiting her. Anything she tries to learn from here on, she will pick up much quicker than someone who hasn't had that foundation, whether it be soccer or wind surfing for example.
After the session Darcy showed me a video of her older cousin doing a deadlift and she said to me "that is how I knew what to do a little bit". She had seen this and had already started to make connections in her brain as to what needs to be done in that lift. So when she got the chance to try the lift, she had already been through a fair few of the steps. I simply just had to correct a few things to make it better and she could adjust very quickly. This is an important skill to have and I think it is being lost very quickly. Being able to visualise a certain lift, a situation on the field, or a move in jiu-jitsu for example is one of the fastest ways to be able to learn. If you don't know why or how something is, or needs to play out, then it is hard to make that happen on the field or to move your body into a position to do it. If you can't visualise the scenario in your head then you can't identify that situation in a game when you are at full speed or under fatigue. If you can, then you start to connect the dots a lot quicker and identify a situation and what needs to be done.
In saying that, I am not a fan of sitting around "visualising". But thinking about a few situations in your brain beforehand and coming up with solutions to any problems can help. At the end of the day you have to get to work. You can't dream things to happen.
Lifting at a young age
When done correctly, strength training will not injure or stunt a young persons growth as many people believe. Done incorrectly, yes it can cause problems, but anything can. Proper strength training at a young age will set kids up for life. It will reduce injuries and give them skills for life. Discipline, focus, confidence, it can all be learnt through training. I have written about this before which you can read here. Playing sports exposes the kids to great forces, so proper strength training actually helps them participate in sports much more safely as it prepares the body to deal with things that they encounter during the sport.
Add in the nutritional habits we teach the young kids and they are on a great path to a healthy life. I didn't get my nutrition sorted for 25 years of my life and have to try and restore many things that had broken down over that time period. These kids won't have half the problems most of us have accumulated over the years. It is never too young to start.