institute 3e

Is is okay for kids to workout?

The debate of youth working out has raged for decades, the stunting of growth, increased injury-all worries of a parent or guardian. While science has consistently proven the benefits of working out when performed smart and safely for youth, you still have a small population who says otherwise.

Institue 3's age-specificity training table - ages, physical maturity, and athletic ability dictate which training methods we use for the training aspects on the left. 

Institue 3's age-specificity training table - ages, physical maturity, and athletic ability dictate which training methods we use for the training aspects on the left. 

Any qualified strength training professional realizes that it's safe for all ages to participate in working out, but all ages have different training needs. At Institute 3e this is our biggest challenge, helping parents understand why/what we do with different ages. Age-specificity is a huge part to our training success, obviously we don't train a 16 year old the same as an 8 year old, every individual has their own needs. These needs are determined by...

  1. Athlete's age - while age isn't the only predictor of training styles used, it's a component of assessing which training needs will be sought out.
  2. Physical maturity - every athlete develops at different rates-this determines the training methods used within their age-specific training style.
  3. Athletic ability - not all athletes are created equal, methods will vary according to ability, this aspect often goes hand in hand with physical maturing.

Every athlete has their own needs, every athlete requires varied instructions and exercises fully dependent on their abilities. Aside from improving already developed skills we always stress the importance of putting in the work at a young age. Accumulation of training years is huge for a young athlete's future success.

So does lifting cause stunting of growth and increased injury?

When you play a sport there is already an inherent risk of injury, strength training does not increase one's risk for injury when used properly. In a review performed to assess strength training in children and adolescents multiple factors were assessed and found.

  • Injury - Any form of injury was always related back to misuse of equipment or lack of supervision. At Institute 3e we have multiple trainers working with every team to ensure safety and proper form. Along with this, we take a lot of time going through progressions to ensure proper form and movements are learned/adapted to.
  • Strength - It was found that children/adolescents can improve their strength anywhere from 30-50% after 8-weeks of training consistently (strength %'s vary by athlete). Strength at Institute 3e doesn't just mean moving weights, it means moving the body in a stronger way. For example, a lot of our athletes have trouble climbing the rope their first visit, after coming consistently climbing the rope becomes easier and attainable. This is a form of tracked progress for us, methods we're using have made your athlete stronger in a safe way.
  • Denser bones, stronger tendons, muscles, and ligaments - In a study examining the positive effects strength training has on youth 9-10 years old, bone and lean mass both increased. While some mass change was associated with normal growth, it was seen that strength training helped increase normal rates in a healthy manner. When muscle and bones get stronger the tendons and ligaments will do so as well.
  • Growth plate injuries - In a review assessing youth/adolescent growth plate injuries it was observed that sports and poorly made programs played a large part in injuries. While some injuries an unavoidable and purely accidental, there are countermeasures that can be taken to decrease injury prevalence. The countermeasures noted in this review involve: smart coaching, individual programming, and attention to individual's needs (health & physical). All aspects we commonly practice at Institute 3e.

When playing sports and working out there will always be risk of injury, especially in high-speed contact sports. The most important aspect to healthy growth in younger athletes is careful supervision and well-designed exercise programs. We make it a point to structure our workouts to an athlete's age, physical maturity, and athletic ability to ensure safe and optimal growth.


Rest Times and Their Usefulness

Every well constructed lifting program all have one thing in common: delegated rest times. Rest times are incorporated to facilitate different training results. A solid program will have a correlation between rest times and the type of strength being trained for. For example, if you're lifting in the "relative strength" phase where you're hitting heavy 3 rep squats, you're going to have a longer rest. The longer rest is needed for better recovery; the nervous system needs a break to maintain its high level of performance.

Strength table.jpg

There are a few key takeaways when thinking about rest and recognizing its usefulness. A lot of folks in the gym will sit and talk in-between sets and not control their rest, these are usually those without a goal in mind or tracked numbers. Every rest period has a goal, whether it be hit consistent strength numbers or create a fatigue while still moving the appropriate weight. Here's how you should interpret and use rest to your advantage...

  1. Rest period lengths and their usefulness
    • Higher rest periods - 2 minutes+ - their use comes when you're lifting in the relative strength category performing compound movements. Also, if you're performing any form of PAP/contrast training, (the rest after the PAP/contrast movements in reference here) a longer rest is needed for nervous system recovery.
      • Examples - squats, deadlifts, bench/overhead pressing, Olympic lifts, etc usually will require more rest. These recruit more muscles than most lifts and are the lifts most often performed in the relative strength category.
    • Medium rest periods - 60-90 seconds - their use comes when training in the hypertrophy and endurance categories; aka when strength, endurance and muscle size are being trained for. You'll usually see these when you perform accessory lifts (lifts that complement the first compound movement). The 60-90 seconds allow enough rest to maintain a degree of strength, but should create some form of fatigue to facilitate growth.
      • Examples - dips, incline dumbbell presses, chin-ups, GHD, etc...movements that don't tax the system as heavily as compounds and usually have higher rep ranges.
        • Exception: when compounds are performed at higher reps/less weight (ex: 8 rep back squat) sometimes rest times may be in the 90ish second category-this is often used for beginners.
    • Shorter rest periods - 10-60 seconds - you'll usually see these used when performing training circuits, agonist/antagonist training or various forms of PAP/contrast methods. When circuit training you're doing multiple movements quickly after another, typically full body. Circuits are often used for fat loss and strength adaptation, high level of work within a short amount of time. Agonist and antagonist are opposing muscles, ex: a press then a pulling movement. PAP/contrast are when you train the same muscles quickly after one another, their use is to overload muscles by varied intensities.
      • Examples - circuit (hex deadlift, dumbbell row, GHD, incline dumbbell press, dumbbell curl all performed 45 seconds after one another), PAP/contrast performing a 3-RM back squat with 10 second rest then doing 6 reps of vertical jump.
  2. Be honest - when there's a rest time written in a program try to follow the delegated time. These times are made to facilitate different forms of growth, if you're constantly taking off or adding time then you're changing your true numbers.
  3. True numbers/progress - rest periods can help ensure you're recording more accurate progress. Like stated above having loose rest periods can influence how much weight you're actually able to move at that given time for the asked rep range.

Whether your goal is fat loss, strength gain or muscle gain rest periods are an easy variable to manipulate for results. Rest periods should always correlate with the lift and the reps, without these two factors strategic rest periods will not be as effective.

Why Tempo Matters

A lot of our athletes are familiar with tempo (the 3010's etc you see in programs), but do you understand why we use them and why they change?

Tempo involves creating a time frame for each part of the lift, the eccentric (downward movement), the concentric (upward movement) and holds at the top and bottom. This in return varies the muscle's time under tension, the time under tension will facilitate different results and adaptations. To help you understand better, we made a list of why and how to interpret tempos--this way you can utilize them in your training.

Let's look at a tempo that appears like this....3-1-1-0

  1. The first 3 is the eccentric count, so a three second descend (lowering phase) in a back squat.
  2. The second 1 is the hold at the bottom of the eccentric phase, so this calls for a 1 second hold at the bottom position of the back squat.
  3. The third 1 is the concentric phase, the upward motion or contraction phase-in this example you would stand up at a rate of 1 second from the back squat.
  4. The fourth 0 is the top of the concentric phase (top of the movement), this calls for a 0 second stop between each rep at the top of the back squat, no break in-between reps.

Now that you have an understanding of how to read and interpret tempos, here's how changing them can be beneficial and why we do so.

  • Easy to track - using a set tempo ensures every rep is the same, you're not haphazardly moving weight at different speeds every lift (which would effect results/true progress).
  • Different muscle types stimulated - fast and slow twitch muscle fibers respond differently to different stimulus's, everyone has both types just in different amounts. Fast twitch respond better to heavier explosive movements, while slow twitch respond best to slower more prolonged movements.
    • A tempo that involves a lot of 1's and X's calls for more explosive phases stimulating fast twitch fibers, while numbers like 3-4+ and excessive holds will help recruit/build your slow twitch fibers (generally speaking).
  • Increased muscle growth - when you focus on time under tension you're providing a calculated stimulus to the muscle. This in return will create more protein synthesis (which we covered briefly here) which will result in increased muscle size/growth, moving weights at inconsistent tempos can slow this process.
  • Planned training phases - all workouts should have a common goal behind them, tempos allow support a more thought out plan to reach this goal. For explosive strength increases you'll usually see lower reps and faster tempos and for muscle size/strength you'll see higher reps and longer time under tension. Together time under tension and reps performed will dictate results, use the guide below as a reference.
    • Relative strength – reps 1-5, time under tension 1-20 seconds and 85% or greater of 1 RM
    • Functional hypertrophy - reps 6-8, time under tension 20-40 seconds and 79-84% of 1 RM
    • Hypertrophy - reps 9-12, time under tension 40-60 seconds and 70-78% of 1 RM
    • Strength endurance - reps 13+, time under tension 60+ seconds and 69% or less of 1 RM

Tempo is a great tool for increasing strength when used correctly. A well designed program has respect for these principles and utilizes the science behind them.





No Belt, No Straps

When we work with athletes we don't use weight lifting belts, nor straps. Like everything, there's a time and place for both, although, we have reasoning for not employing these for our athletes. If you use belts and straps-hear our reasoning out and try avoiding them for a few lifts.


Belts are often used by elite olympic lifters, powerlifters and bodybuilders. There focus is to help maintain compression through the abdominal area (stomach) and to help prevent injury when working with heavy loads (usually 85+% maximal weight) by taking some of the force off of the body. We choose not to use them for our athletes and here's why...

  1. Foundational strength - most of our athletes are building their base of strength, using a belt could hinder their natural growth.
  2. True numbers - a belt might enable an athlete add more weight than their body is ready for, this will then lead to misinterpreted 1, 3, 5, + rep loads.
  3. Back/core growth/strength - the back/core need to have a base of strength before anyone should be worried about finding their maximal weight. By not using belts your back and core will learn to support weight on their own (and grow faster).
  4. Non-transferable - in most athletics it's not realistic that there will be a compressional force on the abdomen when performing, using a belt in the weight room could take away from lifting/performance carry over.
  5. Risk/Benefit - when pursuing true 1 rep maxes there is always a risk of injury, most athletes don't need to find TRUE 1 rep maxes. Their max without a belt should be the max used to assess other reps. 

Belts have their time and place, for most athletes they're unneeded-it's a safer/better bet to build strength without them, especially in younger athletes. In regards to straps there is a littleuse for them in our gym, but we have a strong case as to why we don't employ them in 99% of cases.

  1. Grip strength - grip is a limiting factor, meaning you can only handle a weight your grip can handle. Always strapping up to make a lift will hinder grip strength and improvement, which a hockey player needs.
  2. Forearm/hand growth - constantly strapping up will take away from natural growth of the forearm/hand musculature. When you're constantly holding a stick and having others test your strength on the puck you need a strong grip.
  3. True numbers - not using straps will help keep you true to what needs work, this usually being grip!

When building a solid base of strength you'll benefit more by avoiding the constant use of belts and straps. The back and core need to be strong, especially in hockey-you'll have better gains by not relying on a belt. Vice versa a hockey player needs a good grip, straps can hinder the growth and strength of a grip.