Health Mistakes Youth Weightlifters Make

Do you get injured often?  Are you struggling to make new gains?  Do you just want an edge over the competition?

I spoke recently with Dr. Mark Lavallee, Chairman of the USA Weightlifting Sports Medicine Society, about health mistakes youth weightlifters make.

Boost your performance by fixing these mistakes!

Mistake #1: Not Enough Sleep

Did you know that LeBron James sleeps 12 hours a night?

And did you know that while training for the Olympic Games, Micheal Phelps slept 8 hours a night with a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon?

Embed from Getty Images

In fact, Phelps said that sleep and training were equally critical to his success.  In an interview with CNBC, Phelps explained,

Sleep is “where you can naturally grow and your body recovers.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep:

  •  Allows the body to heal and repair itself
  •  Boosts muscle mass
  •  Supports growth and development
  •  Helps maintain a healthy balance of hormones
  •  Strengthens the immune system

How much sleep should you be getting?

According to Dr. Lavallee,

Youth athletes under 9th grade should be getting 10 hours of sleep for peak performance.  After 9th grade, athletes should sleep at least 8-9 hours.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

Photo credit: Don Lindsay
  • Remove electronic devices from your room—televisions, iPads, phones—all of it.  It is too tempting to stay up and play games, browse, or watch shows.  Plus, blue light exposure from electrical screens reduces melatonin release making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Make your room dark and cool.  Light slows the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.  Also, body temperature naturally drops when you fall asleep, so cooling the room can jumpstart the process.
  • Avoid caffeine.  Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake when you are trying to sleep.
  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.  Sticking to a schedule helps regulate your body’s clock and can help you go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • If you train early in the morning, try to take a nap during the day.  A 20-30 minute nap can improve alertness and performance without interfering with nighttime sleep.

Mistake #2: Lack of Cross Training

Photo Credit: Unit 22 CrossFit

Single-sport specialization can lead to overuse injuries.  Cross training offers a solution to this problem.  Cross training is simply varying your fitness program to include different activities.

What does this mean for a weightlifter?

Mix things up!  Incorporate calisthenics, sprinting, stretching, throwing, and core work into practices.  Step away from the barbell occasionally to work on balance, flexibility, and yes . . . that loathed exercise called running.

Dr. Lavallee recalls:

I have seen weightlifters get winded from climbing a flight of stairs with their gym bag prior to a competition.  Athletes—including weightlifters—should have some level of endurance and overall athleticism.

 

Mistake #3: Using Supplements as Substitutes for Good Nutrition

Two oranges contain 168 mg of vitamin C.  A vitamin supplement containing the same amount of vitamin C should provide an equal benefit, right?

Wrong.

Your body absorbs more of the vitamin C in the oranges than in the supplement because oranges contain co-enzymes, which are molecules that help the body to absorb the vitamins in the orange. Plus, the orange contains fiber and minerals that the supplement won’t have.  The same is true for all fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Lavallee further warns:

Just because a food is labeled all natural does not mean that it contains co-enzymes.

When it comes to good nutrition, real food is always the best solution.

Reserve supplements, such as protein powders, protein bars, and vitamins for times when other foods are not available.  Do not use them as primary sources of nutrition.

Mistake #4: Haphazard Protein Consumption

This 72-oz. steak is served at the Big Texan Steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas.

Your body needs protein to build and maintain muscle, but did you know that your body can only use about 30g of protein for muscle building at a time?

A study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association entitled “Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly” found:

  • A 30g serving of protein increased muscle building activities by about 50% (over fasting) in the subjects studied.
  • A 90g serving of protein—representative of the serving sizes of restaurant meals—did not produce any more muscle building activities.
  • Eating more than 30g of protein in a single meal does not result in further muscle building activities.

So, if muscle building is your goal, you will be better off spreading out your protein consumption throughout the day.

Dr. Lavallee and his family make protein a priority in their family meals.  They spend Sunday afternoons preparing protein-rich meals, such as chicken soup or beans and rice with steak.  Throughout the week, as life gets busy, the Lavellees have healthy, homemade, protein-packed meals ready-to-eat.

NOTE: If you consume more than 30g of protein in a meal, your body will still use that protein, but it will not necessarily go toward muscle building.  The body will break down the excess protein and convert it into glucose to use as energy or store the excess as fat.

Mistake #5: Poor Dietary Habits

Photo credit justharvest.org

If you are like most weightlifters, you clean up your diet prior to a competition and then indulge in a junk food feast afterward.

While a single day of bad eating probably won’t hurt you, Dr. Lavallee advises you to examine your daily habits:

Do you regularly eat junk food and then crash diet before competitions?

If you are a heavyweight lifter, do you eat junk food just because you can?

Even if you are in one of the “plus” weight classes, remember that food is FUEL.  If you are fueling your body with Cheetos and Oreos, you can’t expect to make big gains.

Plus, crash diets can harm you in the long run.  Consider the dangers of crash dieting cited on health.com:

Rapid weight loss can . . .

  • Slow your metabolism, leading to future weight gain
  • Deprive your body of essential nutrients
  • Weaken your immune system
  • Increase your risk of dehydration, heart palpitations and cardiac stress.

 

Mistake #6: Not Enough Balance in Life

Photo Credit: Rich Egger

Do you feel like you live at the gym?  Are you sacrificing every school dance, campout, religious activity, and social event in favor of practice time?  Have you given up all other hobbies, sports and activities for weightlifting?

If so, you are setting yourself up for burnout and unhealthy levels of stress.

Dr. Lavallee further points out:

If you spend all of your time weightlifting, you will never know whether you are a musical virtuoso.  Perhaps you are a gifted guitar player or singer.  Take time to develop other talents and explore new things.

Talk to your coach.  Work out a schedule that allows you to take at least 2 days off per week.

And during those two days, forget about weightlifting and enjoy the other things that life has to offer!

 

Sources:

Clifford, Catherine. “Olympic hero Michael Phelps says the secret to his success is one most people overlook.” CNBC. February 14, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Pickering, Craig. “Sleep and Athlete: Time to Wake to the Need for Sleep.” Freelap USA. April 26, 2016. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Why Is Sleep Important?” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. June 07, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Cross Training-OrthoInfo – AAOS. October 01, 2011. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Symons, T. Brock, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Robert R. Wolfe, and Douglas Paddon-Jones. “Moderating the portion size of a protein-rich meal improves anabolic efficiency in young and elderly.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. September 01, 2009. Accessed November 08, 2017.

How Much Protein Can the Body Absorb?” Quick and Dirty Tips. July 16, 2015. Accessed November 08, 2017.

Miller, Bryan. “How crash diets harm your health.” CNN. April 20, 2010. Accessed November 08, 2017.

 

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Hampton Morris – November 2017 Featured Athlete

Hampton Morris

Meet Hampton Morris — our featured athlete for the month of November.  Hampton is a 13 year old youth weightlifter from Marietta, Georgia and is currently competing in the 50kg weight class.

When did you get started in this sport?

My first meet was on July 9th, 2016.

What (or who) got you started?

My dad.

What do you enjoy most about weightlifting?

Making new lifting friends.

What does your current training routine look like (hours per day, days per week, where you train, who you train with)?

I usually lift 3-4 days per week, 2-3 days in competition weeks, and I try to mobilize as often as possible.  I usually train in my basement or at Crossfit Dwala.  My dad is my coach.

What one or two things do you currently do in your training that has been impactful?:

I think one of the most impactful parts of my training is how often I mobilize.

What do you carry around with you in your gym bag that has nothing to do with weightlifting?

I usually have only lifting-related items in my gym bag, but if I know that I will have a lot of time that I won’t be lifting, I may bring a book or some homework.

What is your diet like?

I just eat normal food.

Who do you look up to in the sport?  Why?

I look up to CJ Cummings and Harrison Maurus because of how successful they have been and how early their success began, and it inspires me to believe that I can do just as well as them.

What friendships has this sport brought your way?

Some friends that I have that I probably wouldn’t have if I weren’t a weightlifter are Logan Davies and Destiny Karch.

Are you coachable?

Yes

What qualities do great coaches possess?

Understanding how their athlete works, and how to help them work around setbacks.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?  Did you take it?

Ignore the things outside of your control, and focus on the things that are in your control.

What characteristics do you strive for (on and off the platform)?

I always try to stay calm, patient, and I always try to have fun.

If you gave everything that you owned away except three things, what would you keep?

I would keep my Kindle with all of my favorite books, including A Prayer for Owen Meany, my vintage Adidas lifters, and my Coffee’s Gym T-shirt.

When you have random free time, how do you spend it?

If I don’t feel like watching whatever’s on TV, I will probably read a book while listening to music, or play with my sister.

If you could master anything (besides weightlifting), what would it be?

I would master soccer.

What have you learned from weightlifting that helps you in other parts of your life?

I have learned how to stay calm during difficult situations, and that it’s always important to be patient.

The last time you were knocked down (or discouraged) in this sport, how did you get back up?

I just stopped thinking about it and focused on what I could do to get past it.

What is the question no one has ever asked you that you’ve always wanted to answer?

I don’t know of any.

What are you most grateful for?

My awesome family and my adorable dog, Dexter.

Where does your strength come from?

I challenge myself and get challenged by others to do my best, every day.

Cultivating New Talent

C.J. Cummings’ coach, Ray Jones, shares his formula for identifying and creating successful youth lifters.

Step 1: Assess Commitment

For two weeks, Coach Jones limits his new athletes to bodyweight and core exercises. This period is all about attendance. Teaching weightlifting technique is time consuming, and Jones wants to invest his efforts into athletes who are serious about showing up to practice.

Step 2: Assess Abilities

During the two week trial period, Coach Jones observes how the athlete’s body moves. He has the athlete do overhead squats with a broomstick or PVC pipe to check flexibility. He also tests balance, core strength and overall athleticism.

Step 3: Design an Individualized Plan

Coach Jones firmly believes that each lifter must be treated as an individual. Some kids are naturals; some kids require more work before they can lift weights. Jones does not lump all of the kids together. Rather, he gives each child exercises that will challenge their personal abilities. Coach Jones says,

I go with whatever level the kid is at, and make them better.  I’m going to take each kid and treat them as an individual.  I’m not going to take a more athletic kid and make them work at the same level as the non-athletic kids.

Step 4: Find a Competition

Once Coach Jones determines that an athlete can move well with the barbell, he finds a competition. Jones says:

After a week or two of executing full movements, I find a competition that is about 6 weeks away. My goal is for the kid to go 6 for 6 at the competition. Competitions build confidence and commitment, both of which are necessary for success in the sport.

Step 5: Use Positive Reinforcement

Coach Jones is a firm believer in positivity. He says:

Everything that comes out of your mouth needs to be a positive. Nothing is ever negative. Combine sweet and sour. If you’re going to say something sour, you need to have something positive to say as well.

If you agree with Coach Jones’ philosophies and would like personal mentoring from him, Jones is now offering a Coach Mentorship Program to help less experienced coaches develop their athletes.  For more information on Jones’ new program, see RayJonesWeightlifting.com.

Photos by Lifting.Life, Wall Street Journal, and Island Packet

 

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