Billy Vaughn Jr., a sophomore football and track athlete at Fairfax High School, builds his legs and core muscles by doing lifts such as the squat. Photo by Jason Lewis
The weight room can be the difference between being a good athlete and a great one.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
For most sports, whether it is football, basketball, baseball, track, soccer, or volleyball, bigger, stronger, and faster dominates.
Take a look at athletes who play for big time college programs. They are all bigger than your typical high school athlete. For most of them, that extra bulk and strength did not come around after they received their college scholarship. They excelled in high school because they were already bigger, stronger, and faster than their high school opponents.
Andrew “AJ” Jackson of A thru Z Sports points out that for what ever sport an athlete plays, that athlete has to do some type of explosive training.
“The benefits, you can gain easily 10 pounds, 15 pounds of muscle, and you’ll be stronger than your opponent,” Jackson said. “So in that fourth quarter you’re still going strong and they’re wearing down.”
There are a lot of young talented athletes who may never reach their full potential because they skip out on the weight room after practice. Part of the problem is that they do not know the benefits of weightlifting, or they do not have a program in place at their school where they are encouraged to lift weights.
“There are a lot of schools that do not have weight lifting programs,” Jackson said. “They have weights at their school, but the coach will tell them to go in there and lift weights, but they don’t know what to do. Basically when you have a program where you know how to lift and the correct amount of weight and the right lifts to enhance their bodies to become bigger, stronger, and faster, it goes a long way.”
Billy Vaughn Sr., who has trained NFL players, Olympic sprinters, and college and high school athletes, believes that weight training also prevents injuries.
“Without weight training, in season or out of season, the body will deteriorate over a period of time,” Vaughn said. “They need to keep the muscle growth to continue to play over a long period of time.”
Vaughn also believes that without the power, strength, or endurance that weight training provides, a high school athlete can only go so far.
Many high school athletes have seen great benefits from lifting weights. Malcolm Creer played his junior season at Palisades High School at 185 pounds, which is a good size for a running back. But after a 600-yard season, he felt that he needed to do extra if he wanted to get to the next level.
After working on his skills with B2G Sports and strengthening his body with A thru Z Sports over the course of the summer, Creer bulked up to 200 pounds, giving him the body of a college athlete.
As a senior he rushed for over 1,200 yards on only 120 carries, averaging more than 10 yards per carry.
Jackson believes that the extra power and weight made a huge difference. At B2G Sports camps, Creer looked bigger and more explosive than a lot of the other athletes, and with the skills that he obtained, he was a monster on the football field. Now he’s headed to the University of Colorado to play football.
One highly debated subject surrounding young athletes and weight training is when should they start.
“I normally say that athletes should start lifting in the 9th grade,” Vaughn said. “Younger than that, they should be doing push ups, sit ups, stationary exercises like that. As you get older, you need the weight training to carry the weight and the load of the sport you’re playing in.”
Jackson has a similar opinion. He said that children starting at 11 and 12 years old may have an issue of affecting their growth plates, and if they are lifting incorrectly, they can easily injure themselves.
But Jackson believes that children can begin to resistance train as early as eight years old. He starts them out with elastic bands and has them do a lot of body weight exercises, such as push ups, pull ups, and sit ups.
Jackson has children start weight training around 13 years old. At that age it is mostly teaching them how to lift, and the focus is on lighter weights with higher reps, instead of heavier weights with lower reps.
Vaughn said that at an early age, maxing out is not the way to go.
“What you want to do when you first start weight training is to get a feel for the weights and get the right foundation for lifting the free weights,” Vaughn said. “If you start maxing out at a younger age and you don’t know how to balance the weights you can hurt yourself. So it is good to start out with lighter weights and do more reps. You have to learn how to lift first before you go all out.”
Young athletes who do not have the proper technique should not attempt lifts such as power clings or squats because those lifts have a high level of difficulty.
Being fast, quick, and explosive are keys to just about every position in every sport.
“When you’re trying to get faster, you have to spend time in the weight room to get stronger so you can maintain endurance,” Jackson said. “You have to tighten up your core. For basketball it’s all explosion. You’re trying to play above the rim. For volleyball it’s the same thing. For every sport you have to do some type of explosive type training.”
Vaughn and Jackson are both on the same page when it comes to eating right.
“It’s two fold,” Jackson said. “It’s lifting weights and eating correctly. If you’re not eating correctly while lifting weights, you’re not really going to get any stronger. They go hand in hand.”
Athletes who lift weights but do not eat correctly will not see the gains in weight and strength that they desire.
It is extremely important to have a program in place. Many young athletes are left on their own after practice, and if they do left weights, there is a great chance that they will either injury themselves, or perform the exercises incorrectly, diminishing their chances of getting any benefits out of it.
Jackson’s doors are open to athletes looking for help. He has a gym on Crenshaw, just south of Coliseum, where he trains a number of athletes. He can be contacted through his website at www.athruzsports1.com
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