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CrossFit Kids - Teen Growth Spurts by Jeff Martin - CrossFit Journal

In Kids, Videos

February 24, 2009

Video Article

Jeff Martin talks about the challenges of working with teenagers, and the changes that happen with growth spurts. Jeff and his wife Mikki run CrossFit Kids. In growth spurts, the bones can grow faster than the muscles, and kids that move really well can suddenly have trouble. Loading up these kids right after a spurt can possibly do more harm than good.

In addition to identifying the dangers, Jeff covers some remedial drills and approaches for continuing the training while acknowledging the changes.

6min 53sec

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14 Comments on “CrossFit Kids - Teen Growth Spurts”


wrote …

I work on the high school level and I can relate. It takes time to develop skill. I teach a strength 1 class where technique is highly emphasized and strength is developed because of improved technique. In strength 2 I also emphasize technique, but now the focus is on a Crossfit phiosophy. I use some Crossfit ideas on level one, but once techniques are honed in the Crossfit workouts are really attacked with high level profit.


Ned Ferguson wrote …

As the father of a 15 year old, I really enjoyed this video. Jeff is a great coach. He sets a tremendous example to which we can all aspire.


wrote …

Great video Jeff! Always educating the community, thanks!


Jeff Vale wrote …

Thanks Jeff. Very informative video.


wrote …

An answer to the question "can kids lift heavy". Technique first and always. How impressive that Jeff and the CFK gang have identified such a subtle risk factor: the change in body mechanics that accompanies a growth spurt and the need to adjust technique accordingly.

This is truly good stuff. Simple, direct, actionable, and relevant to coaching all age groups.


wrote …

I agree with the deloading after a growth spurt, that is a fantastic point and a subtle understanding, however, I never thought I'd see wall-squats and CrossFit.

Flexibility is a difficult topic as there is little understood about it. What we do know is there is a neurological mediation of muscle extensibility. When the end-range of a muscle is weak, the body limits the extensibility of it to protect it from damage. This is why range of motion decreases as we tire, why form goes to hell when we fatigue. End-ranges fatigue first.

In a growth spurt the muscles are now longer but weaker in the end-ranges; we notice this as "a lack of flexibility". The adductors lengthen in a full squat (See "Starting Strength"). In the video example, her adductors are weak in the end-range and therefore pull her knees in and limit her depth. To protect the weaker end-range, the adductors contract sooner than they should. Some dynamic stretches and some PNF mobilization like Coach Starrett suggests will change the set-point for adductor contraction. This will allow her to squat deeper. Note: you must do this for all the musculature that will limit depth in the squat, like the calves, quads, glutes and hamstrings.

However, you must still monitor her technique because, as you will remember, the end-range is weaker and will tire sooner. We THEN slowly add load, to strengthen the end-ranges and work your way back up as Coach Martin suggests in the video.

I agree entirely with his assessment that a growth spurt will alter technique and "strength". But this is because the new range of the muscle is not as strong. Instead of sidelining the individual to an exercise that CF claims to do without, just monitor their dynamic warm-up with some hip, knee, and ankle mobility and observe for end-range fatigue under loads.


Jeff Martin wrote …

There are several things that happen in a growth spurt. The clip catches a brief discussion of a single aspect. What you are saying is true and in our cert we expand on it.
The young lady in the clip had been away from CF Kids for her entire volleyball season. She came back exhibiting the symptoms shown and had only been to class twice I believe before the vid was made. Certainly all the traditional methods you describe need to be employed, but that misses the point of the video and the exercise.
The wall squat is not a long term solution, but rather a way to get the athlete in the workout, while working to address the problems she has developed. This is important to kids. While I might be able to remediate her squat by stretching her and doing squat therapy with her, kids and teens come to class in large part to workout and hang with their friends. So while we can and do use traditional approaches to address the problems associated with technique and mechanics, we have to find ways to help them work on these problems within the class structure. The wall squat is just one tool.
In the young ladies case she used the wall for two workouts, and then was able to move off the wall. Six weeks later she is back squatting her bodyweight, and understands how to and is able to maintain control of her body throughout the movement.


wrote …

I've been watching the progress with this young lady, and the work Coach Jeff Martin is doing with her is nothing short of brilliant. Aside from form issues, she has had ongoing knee problems for several years that are being mediated by his coaching and her hard work. Understandably, it's difficult get the entire picture from one short video. However, the method stands up to scrutiny when we consider it as one aspect of her training, one tool in her toolbox that is being amassed through her CrossFit Kids experiences. CrossFit Kids is entirely CrossFit, but we've had to make some major adjustments to meet the developmental needs of children and teens. It's less about what is considered typical CrossFit and more about what works best for these populations and, more importantly, each individual kid while remaining completely committed to the CrossFit methodology.


wrote …

Alisa is adorable and I hope she is having lots of fun with Crossfit. And Volleyball! Thanks for being the guinea pig!


wrote …

Thank-you to the powers-that-be for posting more in this series. More to come I hope?
It is really fantastic to have this video to reinforce and remind me of the things I learned in the CrossFit Kids cert. I don't quite understand the reluctance to use wall-squats because they're not part of the CF repertoire? I'm sure we were taught in the L1 certs to use the same technique to address issues with squat form and quite frankly, if concentration curls were what was needed to correct a problem, I'd use them. And then tell the person to never ever do them in my presence again. :-)
I enjoy Jeff's teaching style and his common sense approach to keeping the kids in the program.

Thanks again for a very useful video.


wrote …


I apologize if my post seemed too critical. I do not disagree that you have had success with this young lady through CF methods. What you have done with many kids, both thru your facility and your certification is nothing short of exceptional. Perhaps the short clip did not do justice to your methods. Let me restate my question.

If this young lady has been away for some time, doing lots of jumping and short-range explosive work, she is very strong in a short range. However, as she squats deeper her muscles are weaker and limit her depth. It is obviously difficult for her to even get parallel, let alone a deep squat.

How do short-range wall-squats aid strengthening of the muscle end-ranges and improve mobility faster than a cossack stretch with something along these lines:

As Coach Glassman stated, we will take what works and leave the rest behind. What dynamic mobility work was done that was less effective than the wall squat?

In what way does a wall-squat improve performance faster and safer than any of the other dynamic warm-up routines out there?


replied to comment from Corey Duvall

Corey, I think Jeff answered the "why did you use wall squats" question in #7 above. In teaching teens it is important to realize that being in the group, exercising with your friends and being a part of the class is of primary importance to the teen athlete. She may or may not realize that another "fix" may be more effective, or effective more quickly, and frankly may not care all that much if it means NOT being able to be part of the class. 2 sessions of wall squats kept her in her group, allowed her to workout with her buddies, and along with the other "remedies" got her back to classic air squats in class and BW back squats.

Your thoughts about diagnosis and remedy seem spot on--other regimens and dynamic warm-ups may in fact be much faster. In the context of CF Kids (and teaching and coaching teens in general) it seems that tailoring the teaching to the very special particulars of each age is a core concept in Jeff's program. Kids aren't just short adults and sometimes option 2 or 3 or 4 for adults (or in theory) is actually #1 for a kid in that developmental stage. My personal experience here stems from many years of coaching junior high and high school football players.

Good conversation.


wrote …

I keep thinking (so I'll say it even though it sounds like a bunch of smoke blowing), how freakin' lucky the parents of Ramona are to have Jeff and Mikki to entrust with their children's growth, and how many times Coach has 'picked right' with regard to who will be the pillars of the CF Community. Amazing stuff. Paul


wrote …

Apollo- you're right, we are very lucky. I have watched Jeff work miracles with some of these kids. He can spot a problem a mile away, and fix it in a very small amount of time. The way he can adapt his methods and teaching to an ever-changing population is just plain amazing. Imagine your client changing size, shape and attitude on you weekly! A lot of thought goes into how to teach these kids, and how to keep them coming back. So far, success.

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