An increasingly popular tactic for young athletes to gain a competitive edge during off-season is strength training; in combination with plyometric and/or agility training. Rehband has revised Sports Health’s article review by Dahab, K. S. and McCambridge, T. M, which clarifies some common myths associated with youth strength training. It also outlines the most current recommendations for safe and successful youth strength training. Young athletes and non-athletes alike, can improve strength and overall health by participating in a strength training program that is structured and well supervised.
Numerous myths concerning children’s strength training flourish, and they are worthy to discuss. One is that young athletes should only train using their own body weight. However, young athletes have an excellent condition for training with weight, as long as the exercise program is developed with good knowledge and experience, and that the user has good technique, claims researcher T. Krosshaug at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences.
A common misunderstanding concerns strength training and growth plate injuries, but participation in almost any type of sport or recreational activity carries a risk of injury:
”A well-supervised strength training program has no greater inherent risk than that of any other youth sport or activity.” (Sports Health, “Strength Training in Children and Adolescents: Raising the Bar for Young Athletes?”)
“Despite the previously held belief that children would not benefit from strength training or that this type of exercise would harm the growing skeletons of young lifters, current public health objectives now aim to increase the number of children and adolescents who regularly participate in physical activities that strengthen muscles and bones. Strength training can be an important component of physical activities to achieve those objectives.” (STOP Sports Injuries)
The Sports Health review concludes that trained fitness professionals play essential roles in ensuring proper technique, form, safety and exercise progression in the youth age group. The review entails relevant studies on strength training in children and includes studies indexed in PubMed and Medline from 1980 through 2008. Reviews on consensus guidelines on training for youths were also explored. The results were that strength can improve by 30% to 50% after merely 8 to 12 weeks of a well-designed training program and the few case reports of injuries relating to strength training were predominantly related to youths using the wrong weight, misuse of equipment, lack of qualified supervision or improper technique.
When it comes to the age when a child can start to participate in strength training, a child’s physical, cognitive and social maturity are important to evaluate. A screening, pre-participation physical exam by medical professionals is recommended before starting:
“There is no minimal age requirement for participation, although children must be able to follow directions and demonstrate adequate balance and proprioception, which generally occurs by 7 or 8 years of age.” (Sports Health)
The review outlines the most current recommendations for strength training. You can read the full text here. Or else read the summarized guidelines below.
-Discuss goals and expectations with your child and the supervisor prior to the start of training. Dangers of using performance-enhancing substances should be included in the discussion.
-Weight training programs should be individualized on the basis of age, maturity, personal goals and objectives. Each training session should include warm-up and cool down.
-When learning new exercises, your child can use no-load repetitions where the focus is on form and technique.
-To develop strength and promote flexibility, larger muscle exercises should be performed through a full range of motion before smaller-muscle exercises begin. Start big and end small.
-Use submaximal loads to develop technique in various exercises. According to The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), the use of continuous maximal lifts for youth strength training is not endorsed. The AAP argues that single maximal lifts are not recommended until a maturity of the skeleton is reached. Even though other studies of single-repetition testing have not reported injuries in healthy children where there was proper supervision on weight-machines which were child-sized.
-It is important to integrate a variety of resistance types in youth strength training programs, for example: free weights, weight machines, rubber tubing, and medicine balls. Free weights and machine weights pose some unique challenges for children, the reason being that they are most often adult sized. Free weights allow for incremental increases in resistance, e.g. 5%-10%, whereas weight machines require bigger increases in weight e.g. 5- 10 pound weight plates.
-Before resistance or number of repetitions are increased, participants must be able to correctly demonstrate proper technique.
-Overall take-away is that youth athletes who strength train should fit the equipment properly and learn the correct exercise technique.
If you want to learn more about this topic, head over to the linked sources. For more articles about youth strength training– stay tuned!
Skadefri.no, ”Sterk i en ung kropp”, Tron Krosshaug (PhD and associate professor at the Center for Sports Injury Research and the section for Sports Medicine at the Norwegian Scool of Sport Sciences). Available at: http://www.skadefri.no/felles/unge-og-styrke/
Sports Health, 1(3), 223–226. ”Strength Training in Children and Adolescents: Raising the Bar for Young Athletes?” Dahab, K. S., & McCambridge, T. M. (2009). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445252/pdf/10.1177_1941738109334215.pdf
STOP Sports Injuries, Strength training tips, (2012), available at:
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