Strength Development for Young Adolescents
Dr. Larry W. McDaniel, Allen Jackson, M.Ed., and Dr. Laura Gaudet, discuss critical issues related to strength development for adolescents.
The experience of providing resistance training education to groups of young adolescents has been etched in my mind. For the most part this is, and can be, a very enjoyable experience, but it requires constant supervision and control (withitness skills). For the older participants, my philosophy is to let this group set up a personal program to fit his or her specific needs. For the younger participants, we want to develop some very basic training principles. Along with training guidelines for the younger lifter, our main focus should focus on the prevention of injury.
As a trainer, when we talk to this age group about growth plate injuries, they blink twice and have no earthly idea about what we are trying to describe. In their own minds, they are bullet proof and it is our responsibility to provide the mentoring required to keep them safe and healthy.
Growth plates, also known as the epiphysis, are the growing areas of the long bones of the upper and lower extremities. During human development, these areas of the body remain vulnerable to injury during adolescence with the occurrence of injury most prevalent among 14 to16 year-old boys and 11 to 13 year-old girls. Older girls experience these fractures less frequently then their male counterparts due to earlier physical maturation. In the young athlete, a serious injury to a joint is more likely to damage a growth plate than the ligaments surrounding a joint. While a sprain injury in an adult can be compared to a growth plate injury for the young athlete (Panhgis et al. 2001).
Approximately one half of all growth plate injuries occur in the lower end of the radius at the wrist. These injuries are also common to the tibia and fibula or the lower leg bones. After a growth plate injury has occurred, it is possible that the injury may contribute to the premature arrest of bone growth. "The affected bone grows less than it would have without the injury, and the resulting limb could be shorter than the opposite, uninjured limb. If only part of the growth plate is injured, growth may be lopsided and the limb may become crooked (Panhgis et al. 2001, p.2).
From 1991 to 1996, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, through its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), estimated the annual number of injuries associated with strength training as 20,940 to 26,120 for individuals under the age of 21 (Committee of Sports Medicine 2001). These figures are not recent, but the information highlights the risk of injury to those who are not closely supervised or do not receive proper instruction in resistance training. Research is inconclusive in regards to growth plate injury, due to a limited number of case reports involving damage to the epiphysis.
The fact remains, these injuries are more common than we would like to acknowledge and the sad thing is that they are completely preventable. As professionals, we need to advise our young athletes about proper technique and limited maximum lifts. Growth plate injury is typical of improperly supervised training episodes. As coaches, instructors, and trainers we must realize that an ounce of prevention will last an athlete a lifetime (Committee of Sports Medicine 2001).
Suggested Guidelines for Youth Strength Training
The right strength training program for your students is not just a scaled-down version of what an adult would do. Many adult programs focus on fewer repetitions and heavier weights. The focus of youth strength training programs needs to focus on:
Strength training programs should be designed to consider participants age, size, skills and sports interests. The general principles of youth strength training are:
Results will not come overnight. Over time, you and your trainees will notice a difference in muscle strength and endurance.
Strength Training A Healthy Habit for a Lifetime
If your young adolescences show an interest in strength training, know that it can be a safe and effective activity. Along with aerobic exercise, stretching, and balance and stability, strength training is one part of a well-rounded fitness program.
Encourage physical activity in your child. It is a key step to becoming a healthy adult. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2006)
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About the Authors
Larry W. McDaniel Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Dakota State University Madison, SD. USA. Dr. McDaniel was a First Team All-American football player (USA Football), a Hall of Fame Athlete, and Hall of Fame Wrestling Coach.
Allen Jackson, M. Ed. is an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska (USA) who is well known for his presentations and publications at international conferences focusing on Leadership, Curriculum, and Health.
Laura Gaudet, Ph.D. is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Counselling, Psychology and Social Work at Chadron State College, Chadron NE. Dr. Gaudet is well known for her publications and presentations at international conferences focusing on various topics in the field of psychology.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: