Strength training, also known as resistance training, is a component of sports and physical fitness for young athletes of all ages. Strength training may positively influence athletic performance, prevent and rehabilitate injuries, and improve long-term health. It has been shown to be safe and effective when performed with qualified adult supervision and appropriate exercise selection.
Strength and conditioning is the application of resistance, plyometric, agility and speed training. Resistance training may involve resistance bands, free weights, weight machines, medicine balls and body weight exercises. Young athletes may choose to participate in a strength and conditioning program to enhance athletic performance, appearance, long-term health and prevent and/or rehabilitate injuries. A strength and conditioning program should be properly supervised, safely progressed, and developed and adjusted based on the young athlete’s’ goals and participation in other physical activities.
Yes, when done correctly. Most injuries occur during misuse of gym equipment, using excessive weight, or lifting weights with improper form. A well-designed, well-supervised strength training program has no greater inherent risk of injury than that of any other youth sport. Below are some general safety guidelines:
There are many benefits for young athletes to start resistance training. Not only the impact on current and future sports performance, but on self-esteem and socialization. When implemented in a safe, and smart fashion kids can blossom into fit, smart, strong young adults. Below are some of the beneficial outcomes:
When participating in a strength and conditioning program it is very important to do so safely in order to minimize risk of injury. When developing a program, one should consider a young athletes current fitness and developmental level. A young athlete can typically safely initiate a program as early at 8 years old, around the age a young athlete begins organized sports. If the athlete is in pain or suffering from an injury prior to or during a strength and conditioning program it is important to address this with a medical professional before continuing.
Below are guidelines based off of the recommendations from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Following these guidelines can help make initiating and participating in a strength and conditioning program safe, effective and fun.
Most importantly, make sure the sessions are fun and varied to encourage active engagement and long-term commitment to a healthy and safe lifestyle.
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Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, S60-S79.
Myer GD, Faigenbaum AD, Chu DA, Falkel J, Ford KR, Best TM, Hewett TE. Integrative training for children and adolescents: Techniques and practices for reducing sports-related injuries and enhancing athletic performance. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 2011;1(39):74-84.
Tiffany Chag MS, RD, CSCS
Rehabilitation Department, Hospital for Special Surgery