The #1 Strategy for Working with Young Athletes

Years ago I remember listening to a college strength coach on a podcast (unfortunately I don’t remember who it was) and he offered words of wisdom that I have since lived by when working with my athletes.  Those words were “Slow cook ’em”.  I have applied these words for I don’t know how long, yet I am still sometimes surprised at how well this strategy works.

Why slow cook them?  For most of these athletes, the majority of training is new.  Rarely is there a situation where a young person is very proficient in most movements, lifts, etc. If they are, great, it’s just time to get stronger because chances are there is plenty of room for improvement there.  Nothing fancy here.  As I’ve said before, just keep laying bricks.  We don’t have to do everything, just work towards awesome at a few basic things. What’s the opposite of slowing cooking ’em?  Regularly introducing and using a wide variety of lifts, limiting the exposure and practice time for each, making it difficult to be proficient and truly stronger.

One of the reasons I was inspired to write about this happened recently when I introduced the dumbbell snatch to my current students.  Now, the dumbbell snatch is not the most complicated exercise but it does require more coaching than a pull up or overhead press. To my excitement it didn’t take more than a few sets or maybe 2-3 training sessions before these kids were looking pretty good.  The biggest reason for this I believe is that I’ve been “slow cooking ’em”. Each one has been training for a least a few months, some longer, but has been hammering the fundamentals, getting stronger and a little better every day.  When appropriate we add something new but certainly not everything all at once and definitely not simply because it’s hard. This is just one example but I have been working with kids ages 12-20 ish for a little over 10 years now and have happily seen this success before.

In most cases I see the situation like this: Aside from the new strength and power that can be applied today, 1 of 2 things will happen for these kids in the future.  Either, I will prepare her/him to play a college sport and potentially be ahead of some of their teammates in the weight room going in, or, I will give them a solid foundation of movement, strength and knowledge to use for a lifetime.  Either way, it’s a process and I’m slow cooking ’em.

– Mike Baltren