“Done safely and with the proper technique, strength training is good for teenagers and even for pre-adolescents,” says Joseph Molony, a physical therapist and coordinator of the Young Athlete Center at HSS. “There’s a belief that young people should not engage in strength training, but that’s a myth.” Supervision by a trained professional is key, however.
It’s a good idea for teens and their parents to consider what they hope to gain from strength training before beginning, according to HSS pediatric orthopedic surgeon Daniel Green, MD, MS, FAAP, FACS. Dr. Green also recommends a doctor’s visit before starting the program if a teenager has experienced pain or a previous injury so that the appropriate treatment plan and training strategy can be developed.
The next step is to find a structured, well-supervised program or a certified instructor to get started. A fitness evaluation, development of a safe program geared to individual needs and goals, and learning proper technique are essential, says Molony.
Teens may be able to find a program in their community, or they may opt for one-on-one instruction. The HSS Young Athlete Center offers training and conditioning for small groups, as well as individual sessions.
“A general strengthening program should offer age-appropriate exercises; teach proper movement patterns; address major muscle groups, including the core; and have the teen progress in a slow and steady manner,” says Ashley Fluger, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at the center. “A well-rounded fitness program also incorporates cardiovascular exercises that are good for the heart, such as biking or running, as well as exercises to increase flexibility, such as foam rolling.”
To find a fitness professional, do your homework and check credentials. An expert should have formal training and some type of certification. For example, Molony and Fluger are certified strength and conditioning specialists.
Here are a few additional strength-training recommendations for teens:
Finally, teens should stay away from supplements that say they enhance performance. A better overall strategy includes a nutritious diet containing lots of protein, fruits and vegetables; sufficient hydration; dedication to the exercise program; maintaining good form while exercising; adequate rest and slow and steady progress.