Coaching Youth a Case Study with Morgan McCullough

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Coaching Youth a Case Study with Morgan McCullough

Some of you might know my 13-year-old phenom Morgan McCullough. I have been coaching him for just under a year, and his results have been nothing short of amazing. During the last one year he has grown about 6 inches, and his back squat has gone up over 100 lb. Obviously resistance training isn’t affecting his growth.

In his first National competition Morgan broke the Under 13 Youth American Record Clean & Jerking 109k/240lb, but he’s ready to demolish that record in December along with the snatch and total. This article isn’t to brag about Morgan well maybe a little. I just wanted to give you guys some ideas for training youth with some of the ways that I’ve approached Morgan’s training.

Morgan’s most amazing accomplishment is his progress in the back squat. May 11th of this year Morgan set a PR Back Squat of 310lb. 5-months later he back squatted an amazing 400 pounds. That was last night, and of course that’s what sparked this blog. Now some of you might say that I am going to heavy with such a young man, but that’s all relative.

Check out the video here:

https://youtu.be/t_CwW1o7nro

We are staying in the 8 R.P.E. range, as you will see in the video. You will also notice that his technique is near perfect. Of course we are high bar only because he is an Olympic Weightlifter, and you will notice great mobility along with a stable and vertical torso. At this point technique is the focus, but we aren’t afraid to go heavy.

Dr. Mike McKenzie and I are working on a book that we will release next year all about resistance training with youth. All the studies that we are reviewing have found that max weights aren’t a bad thing. The key is proper technique and supervision. Anyone can get hurt with bad technique especially youth.

Don’t get caught up on the amount of weight being used. It’s all relative. 400 pounds for Morgan is probably like 200 pounds for another 13-year-old. Instead of focusing on the amount of weight I recommend you focus on the technique of the lift. All the studies are saying that 135 pounds performed incorrectly is way more dangerous than 400 pounds performed properly.

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Here’s a sample of his workout in preparation for the American Open:

Week 4-6
Day 1 Week 4
Warm Up with Jerk Steps from Split 35% x3, 45% 2 x3
Clean & Jerks 50% x 3, 60% x 3, 70% x2, 75% 2×2, 80% x 1, 85%1×1, 88% 1×1, work up no misses
P. Cleans from Blocks with Bar at Knees 75% for 3×3 then 3RM 8RPE
High Bar Back Squat with Belt 3RM(1st rep paused 3 sec), then -10% for 2×3 not paused
Push Presses 3RM, then -10% for 2×3
Upper Muscular Imbalance 1
1a. Plate Lateral Raises 3 x 10 reps
1b. Bentover Rows 3 x 5 reps

Conditioning
200m BW Lunges

Day 2
Warm Up with OH Squat Variations Heaving Snatch Balance & 1 OH Squat work up to 75% of Snatch
Snatch 50% x 3, 60% x 3, 70% x2, 75% 2×2, 80% x 1, 85%1×1, 88% 1×1, work up no misses
No Hook and No Feet Snatch 65% for 2×3, 75% 2×2, work to max single no misses
Front Squat with Belt 3RM(1st rep paused 3 sec), then -10% for 2×3 not paused
BB Elevated Hip Thrusts 4×6
Core Muscular Imbalance 1 1. One arm OH Carries with a Fat Grip DB

Day 3
Snatch from Blocks (Short or Medium Blocks) 70% 2×3, 80% 2×2, 85% 1×1, 88% 2×1 (work up if no misses and stop at first miss)
Clean & Jerk from Blocks (Short or Medium Blocks) 70% 2×3, 80% 2×2, 85% 1×1, 88% 2×1 (work up if no misses and stop at first miss)
High Bar Back Squat 1RM, then -20% for 3
Deadlift Paused at mid shin 3RM(1st 2 reps paused 3 sec), then -10% for 2×3 not paused

Upper Muscular Imbalance 2
1a. Chest to Bar Pull-ups 3 x submaximal reps
1b. Z Press BB or DB 3 x 10 reps
1c. KB High Pulls 3 x 10 reps (lower slower than the concentric)

Day 4
Snatch Max Effort Snatch Pull x 1, Snatch x1, & OH Sq x 1 Max 8 RPE
Clean & Jerk Max Effort Clean x 1, Front Squat x 2, & Jerk x 1 Max 8RPE
Heaving Snatch Balance 1RM with 5 sec pause (8 RPE), then -20% for 3 reps not paused
Muscle Snatches 3×5

Day 5
Back Squat with Belt 75% for 5×5 with last set 5+
Jerk Recoveries 3RM, then -10% for 3
Strict Presses 5RM, then -10% for 2×5
RDLs 3×8
BB Elevated Hip Thrusts 3×8

Lunges 200-400m

You will notice a lot of general physical preparedness. The number one concern at his age is to prepare his body for the long road ahead. Morgan’s goals are big. He’s not just trying to make an Olympic team someday. He’s trying to be the best. To do that he will be looking at about 15 more years of slinging weights around. That’s a lot of wear and tear on the body, so now is the time to build that body up strong.

The first two days of the week are designed to focus on one lift at a time. We start with a technique movement to work on the things that Morgan needs help with. Then we move onto volume in one of the lifts, and then we move on to a movement to once again improve technique. Let’s look at them individually:

Day 1

Warm Up with Jerk Steps from Split 35% x3, 45% 2 x3
Clean & Jerks 50% x 3, 60% x 3, 70% x2, 75% 2×2, 80% x 1, 85%1×1, 88% 1×1, work up no misses
P. Cleans from Blocks with Bar at Knees 75% for 3×3 then 3RM 8RPE

As you can see we start with Jerk Steps for Split because I want Morgan to learn the perfect position of the Jerk, and I want him to get the feel of stepping through the bar by pushing off that back foot. Then we move onto some typical volume, and then we finish with Power Cleans from Blocks. This exercise is designed to teach him to meet the bar as quickly and as high as possible. A lot of athletes don’t grasp that concept during this phase of the game. They will simply pull and dive, but to become great they will need to learn how to meet the bar as quickly as possible.

Day 2

Warm Up with OH Squat Variations Heaving Snatch Balance & 1 OH Squat work up to 75% of Snatch
Snatch 50% x 3, 60% x 3, 70% x2, 75% 2×2, 80% x 1, 85%1×1, 88% 1×1, work up no misses
No Hook and No Feet Snatch 65% for 2×3, 75% 2×2, work to max single no misses

We start with a movement that will prepare Morgan to rip and push under the bar. I am also getting that overhead position perfected. Then the volume work comes directly afterwards. You will also find that the Snatch Balance is a great warm up for the volume work. We finish with some “no hook and no feet Snatch” designed to teach Morgan to keep the bar close and to make the transition under the bar as quickly as possible. Obviously with no hook grip if the bar gets out in front at all, Morgan will lose the bar out of his hand.

Programming definitely helps with Morgan’s progress, but there are several other aspects that go into Morgan’s improvement. Let’s look at those too:

1. His mother and father are supportive. They are not overbearing or controlling. This is Morgan’s dream, and they simply help to facilitate that dream. Not to mention they are responsible for his amazing genetics. Wayne are Crystal are now apart of my family, and I am grateful for the entire family. Morgan’s mother is jacked as well deadlifting 350lb at 40-years-old.

2. Morgan listens to his coaches. Morgan gets feedback from Don McCauley and me. All of our athletes get the same feedback, but Morgan listens to every word and applies the information.

3. Morgan is already a Master of the Mundane. With the help of his mother Morgan is already starting to make massive strides in the nutrition department. No one has to make Morgan train, and no one makes him sleep like he should and eat like he should. Morgan does it on his own because he is focused on his dream.

I hope that this article gives all of you some insight on coaching youth. There are not many 13-year-olds this focused, so you will probably have to scale things. Not many are going to be able to dedicate five days per week, but at least you can get some solid ideas. I am blessed to have an athlete like Morgan, but all youth deserve a well thought out program and solid coaching.

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