About myself: I am a high school freshman and in the past months it has dawned on me that exercise is way to important to ignore as I did for the ~8 months prior when I was struggling with anxiety issues and my grandmother dying. My dad is a Cross-Country coach for 20+ years, and his healthy lifestyle has shown me that exercise really helps with life's stresses. I began doing primarily running for normally 1.5 miles, 2 or 2.5 on a good day.

My issue is that my core and upper body strength is relatively weak, and this is one of the main issues I would like to work on this summer. The problem is, I don't know/can't find an ideal balanced routine for a high school student.

Who should I consult for a balanced fitness plan? Is this one of those things that is simple enough to be achieved by the fine people here? My dad primarily just runs, He has a bench set in the basement but I have never seen him use it once. His advice for me was that most body workouts can be accomplished with your own weight (mines ~110 lbs), and after each run he does 2 sets each of: 20 pushups, 30 situps, 20 of something where you lay down on your feet and elbows, and the take turns holding your weight on each arm (its a core workout), and 20 lunges. Is this a 'good-enough' plan for a high-academic achieving young student?

I primarily want to exercise over the summer to be ready for getting back into sports next year, as this year I didnt do any due to anxiety, and presently ive caught up with myself after counseling and time.

One of my future goals for myself is to be able to run atleast a half-marathon before I graduate.

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    The core exercise you describe that your Dad does sounds like a "plank". This abdominal exercise q/a includes planks as well as other core exercises. Also, for a "high-academic achieving young student" this posture q/a will give you some good exercises to keep your trunk balanced while you spend long hours studying! May 22, 2014 at 19:43

2 Answers 2


Jim Wendler, a big strong weight lifter, says this:

I believe [high schoolers] should be at least to do the following before they even lift weights;

  • 50 push-ups with proper form (no A-Frame or saggy ass)

  • 10 strict pull-ups

  • 100 sit-ups

  • 25 parallel dips

  • Be able to hold various bridging positions for at least 30 seconds.

  • Have some kind of running base with emphasis on conditioning and HOW to run properly. I'm sorry but if you are 12 or 13 years old and can't run a 7:00 minute mile than something is wrong.

So, those are one set of goals to work on. In terms of resources, you could look around for coaches you'd trust with your training, or you could do some reading. Ross Enamait wouldn't be a bad place to start on the latter.

  • Great answer! Any suggestions for the OP about what kind of routine he could start on if he's already able to perform all of those exercises?
    – Daniel
    May 22, 2014 at 19:16
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    @Doc Only to read the literature or find a coach. Routines are a dime a dozen, but the devil is in the details, which aren't communicable over this medium. May 22, 2014 at 20:33

To be honest it really depends on your goals. Do you want to look a certain way, lift a certain weight, or run a certain distance? You mention that you want to increase your upper body strength in the summer, but also want to run a half marathon before you graduate.

Lets start with the running part first! I'm not a runner (in fact I've hated it for as long as i cant remember), but I used to be extremely involved in soccer.. And in soccer, you need to run. A lot. So getting to the point, training for running is just like training for anything else. Try setting small goals for yourself such as running an extra 1-2 kilometers on a day by the end of the week, then increase for next week. You'll find some days are better than others, whether it be emotions getting in your way or a lack of energy, but just keep the goal in mind and stay disciplined. A half marathon is a extremely good goal for somebody in your age group and is certainly achievable!

Now on the the upper-body strength. You're going to hear a lot of myths saying it will stunt your growth blah blah. Don't listen to any of them. Strengthening your body will not negatively impact your physical ability. Height is purely genetics. When/if you go to a gym, I highly recommend that you do NOT do the typical curls/bodybuilder type exercises. The most important thing at your age is for you to develop your structural integrity. To be strong AND functional at the same time. I agree with Dave Liepmann's post (above) as a bench mark to start lifting in the weight room. Those numbers should be your first goal. Once you reach that, I suggest you look into a program called "Stronglifts 5x5". Its a program I used when I started lifting and it gave me an incredible strength base. As you get more experienced you'll figure out what works for you, after all, you're just beginning :)

Good Luck!

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