Are You Mature Enough to Lift?
I love the big multi joint lifts. You know deadlifts, squats, and bench. They are great bang for your buck exercises. They can help develop full body strength, but they are not for everyone. People with range of motion limitations, stability problems, or pain with certain movements may be prohibited from performing some of these lifts. This is why it is important to perform an assessment before hand.
The assessment is the time where the client proves to you what they can do. A client may show that they are able to perform the multi joint lifts. Physically they may be capable but one aspect that I think is overlooked is if they are mentally able to perform these lifts.
I know lifting weights is essentially lifting heavy circular objects over and over again until you get that sweet swell. So anyone can do it without putting any thought into it. (This is my attempt at sarcasm.)
When working with young athletes I think it is a privilege for them to perform the big barbell lifts. This is why I am never quick to throw someone under the bar until they have proven to me they can handle it, both physically and mentally. I am like the Gandalf of barbells. I don’t know if that works, but I am sticking with it.
If you look at the deadlift, there is so many things to remember: hips back, chest up, back flat, push through the heels, and I could go on. What I am getting at is that if you don’t have the mental capacity to remember at least a hand full of these reminders, then there is a chance you will end up getting hurt. I don’t expect kids to remember all of them, but there is usually at least one or two cues they are going to have to remind themselves of during each lift.
Weight lifting should be fun, but when it comes time to perform the lift it should be all business. This is where the mental aspect comes in. It is our job to put our athletes in position to improve, while at the same time keeping the risk to reward as low as possible. There is nothing that irks me more then seeing someone mistreat a big lift. It makes me want to go up to the person and slap the bar out of their hands and say, “No”. Of course I don’t do that.
The question is how you know when an athlete is mentally mature enough. Age does play a role. An athlete of college age is more likely to understand the risk of performing a lift improperly. A younger high school athlete may not understand or see the importance of lifting with techniques. They could possibly see it as a need to just lift this weight any way possible, regardless of form. I am not going to mention middle school because I am not a big proponent of prescribing squats or any other big lifts to middle schoolers.
During the assessment it is good to take note of how the athlete acts and responds to your corrections. If they seem to take correction more seriously, then they may be more mentally prepared then someone who may seem to reluctantly take your corrections. From this you may get an idea of where they’re at. If you feel they show good form and are able to focus during the lift then prescribe them some big barbell lifts. You can always back off the lift if they show they are not ready to handle it. You can giveth and taketh away.
All the responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of the athlete. We as coaches need to spend time with our athletes, getting to know them. The more they are comfortable with you the more they will trust you and listen to your instruction. If you get your new athletes to open up to you it is amazing how much more they will listen to you.
Putting Everything Together
The multi joint barbell lifts are not for everyone. The athlete or client must show that they are physically and mentally able to perform the lifts. This is for their safety and well-being. Take note of their level of perceived maturity. From this, if you feel they can handle the big lifts, then prescribe them. You can always remove them. Finally it is our responsibility to get to know our clients. By doing so they will have a greater respect towards you and the lifts they are performing and will understand that you have their best interest at heart.