By Sherwin Vasallo, Accelleration Performance

One of the most popular questions that I’m asked by parents of all sporting athletes’ is, “Is my son/daughter old enough to strength train?”  Or, “When can my son/daughter begin weight training?”  If only I could get a dime for every time that question is asked, I would be a millionaire!  But, to answer the question(s), strength training can begin as young as 10 years old (in some cases, 8 – depending on the child’s genetic make up).  Don’t get me mistaken, I’m not suggesting our young basketballers lift maximal effort (85-95% RM), I merely suggest they begin with bodyweight exercises – AKA: calisthenics!    Calisthenics are exercises consisting of a variety of simple movements, usually performed without weights or equipment, that are intended to increase body strength and flexibility using the weight of one's own body for resistance.  These exercises are the basis for most gymnastic strength training programs and as far as I’m concerned, in terms of relative strength, gymnasts are tops when thinking about strong athletes!  

Let’s get a little controversial – I would even recommend weight training for our young basketball athletes, especially girls!  Before I explain myself and this controversial issue, let’s dispel some myths regarding strength training at a young age. 

MYTH 1:  Weight training will damage the tendons, ligaments and bones of young athletes!

False:  There is no evidence that suggests that weight training damages the contractile and non-contractile tissues in young basketball athletes!  This was/is merely an old wives tale (or as I like to call it, ‘an old gym teacher’s tale’...ok, that wasn’t funny).  It was burned into our hard drive that you must be 16 years of age in order to begin strength training.  I know there are many commercial gyms out there that don’t allow athletes in the weight training area unless they are at least sixteen, and even if they are sixteen and they want to start weight training, paper work and parental meetings must take place.  So, you can see how many of our young athletes don’t even bother to start – it’s such a pain in the butt to get started!

Furthermore, the loading that we impose on our younger weight training athletes could not even come close to the loads that they are exposed to in an actual game or practice of basketball.  FYI, all athletes can experience anywhere from 3x-10x their body weight when running, sprinting and jumping!  

MYTH 2:  Weight training will stunt the growth of young athletes.

False:   Please see myth one.  It’s been said that weight training will prematurely seal growth plates in growing athletes!   Yet another fallacy!  In fact, weight training promotes bone density and growth.  Furthermore, weight training teaches neuromuscular control and recruitment.  

At Acceleration Performance, we have a number of clients that are pre-teen but I will use one of our client’s situations as an example to drive this myth 6 feet under!  We will call him Dave Smith to protect his identity.  I started training Dave Smith when he was only in grade 8.  He was a rookie in the weight room so there was a lot of teaching going on.  We followed a year round training plan to enhance strength, speed and power.  Initially we started with very basic movements and high rep work to groove his motor patterns.  From this, we built a solid base to work with.  Years later, he is now standing at approximately 6’7”.  There was no effect on his height from year round strength training!  Usually we will only see athletes in 8-12 week blocks.  Dave Smith has yet to stop weight training. 


*this is not Dave Smith in the picture

MYTH 3:  Weight training will bulk me up to make me look like a man. (For our female ballers)

False:  Weight training will not ‘bulk’ you up to the point of top rank bodybuilder of the world.  I can’t stress enough to our female athletes that in order to bulk up like a bodybuilder you must eat like a bodybuilder!  Weight training for your particular sport/sport position is designed to get you stronger for that position.  Athletic strength programs are very different from bodybuilding programs.  If, your current trainer is implementing a training plan similar to Big Joe Smith doing bicep curls in the squat cage – FIND A NEW TRAINER!!

Those were my top 3 Myths that I want to dispel.  I’m sure there are many others out there that I have not touched on but then this will be a 10 page article.  

The following are our choice callisthenic exercises to build strength and enhance motor control for young basketball athletes.  Be sure to consult a reputable and certified strength trainer before implementing these exercises to your young athlete’s strength program.







*pictured is the box squat







These are Acceleration Performance choice exercises for no weight/callisthenic exercises for enhancing strength in young basketball athletes.  They are all challenging to do, you need little to no equipment to perform and will definitely provide the strength your young athlete will be looking for. 


As for the controversial weight training recommendation that was stated
earlier in the article; I highly recommend weight training for young
athletes.  Again, I am not suggesting maximal effort lifting, simple
lighter weight and higher rep training.  Keep the exercises basic –
bench press, squat, dead lifting*, shoulder pressing etc.  Keep all
exercises multi joint and please don’t bother with bicep curls or
triceps extensions, leg extensions or leg curls – they are really
pointless for young athletes, unless they want to go to the beach!


Sherwin Vasallo is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certified Athletic Therapist and a Certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor.  He is the owner and head Strength Coach for Acceleration Performance.  Sherwin is also the head Strength Coach for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen athletic program. He has worked with many clients ranging form the CFL, Canadian National Basketball team, Professional basketball, DIV 1 University and potential Olympians. For more information on Acceleration Performance please visit

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