The 7 Stages of LTAD

LTAD identifies seven stages to describe the physical, mental, emotional and social development of an athlete from childhood to adulthood based on principles of maturation. Training and competition guidelines for each stage describe training and competition goals, optimal ratios of training to competition hours, and targets for development of technical, physical, psychological and ancillary capacities in the athlete. Through a systematic approach, LTAD optimizes athlete development at each stage of maturation and avoids the hazards associated with arbitrarily imposing adult training regimens and competition formats on children.

The seven stages of the generic LTAD pathway are described below in simplified terms. Note that the seven stages of the Weightlifting LTAD represent a sport-specific adaptation of these stages; however, the developmental principles remain the same.

1 - Active Start
(ages 0-6)
Children are introduced to basic physical movement and activity in play settings. The emphasis is on fun and engagement in daily physical activity, not competition. Healthy activity and play stimulate development of their physical coordination and gross motor skills along with brain function, social skills, emotions, imagination, confidence and positive self-esteem.

2 - FUNdamentals
(ages 6-9 males, 6-8 females)
Through a variety of physical activities, children are introduced to fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, throwing, hitting and kicking – activities that will later form the basis for most sports skills. Like the Active Start stage, the emphasis is on FUN.

3 - Learn to Train
(ages 9-12 males, 8-11 females)
Children transform their FUNdamental skills into sport-specific skills (e.g. Weightlifting skills) within structured training settings, though the emphasis is still on learning a variety of sports and avoiding early specialization.

4 - Train to Train
(ages 12-16 males, 11-15 females)
Pre-adolescents and adolescents consolidate their basic sport-specific skills and may begin moving towards specialization in one sport (e.g. Weightlifting), especially if they are identified as possessing special talent and choose to pursue high performance in their sport. However, they are still encouraged to participate in at least one other sport or activity, as well as maintain a baseline of athletic capacities. For athletes specializing in other sports, Weightlifting should be considered an integral component of training as it improves physical fitness.

5 - Train to Compete
(ages 16-23 +/- males, 15-21 +/- females)
Individuals have specialized in one sport and now work to optimize all of their athletic capacities – technical, tactical, physical, mental, emotional and more. Training regimens are intense, and the aim is to prepare the athlete for elite competition and podium performances.

6 - Train to Win
(ages 19+ males, 18+ females)
The elite athlete’s physical, technical, tactical, mental, and lifestyle capacities are fully established. The focus of training shifts to the maximization of performance in order to win national and international competitions.

7 - Active for Life
(any age)
Athletes transition from a competitive focus to lifelong participation in recreational sport and/or physical activity. This transition may occur at any time during the previous stages, though ideally no earlier than the Learn to Train stage, when individuals have mastered basic “physical literacy” (see FUNdamentals under The 10 Key Factors of LTAD).