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Strength

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)[3].

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)[3].

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)[1]. 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)[1].

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:

  • Correct technique
  • Smooth controlled motions
  • Less resistance and many repetitions

Strength training programs should be designed to consider participants age, size, skills and sports interests. The general principles of youth strength training are:

  • Provide instruction. Show your lifters how to perform strength training exercises using controlled breathing and proper form. You might ask a trained professional to demonstrate these techniques. If you enroll your child in a class, make sure there is at least one instructor for every 10 students to ensure that your child receives proper instruction.
  • Supervise. Adult supervision is important to reinforce safety and good technique. For instance, if students lift weights to strength train, a spotter - someone who stands ready to grab the weights - can step in if the weight becomes too heavy. Parents can get involved in strength training too. They can serve as a positive reinforcement for healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Warm up; cool down. Have your lifters begin each workout with 5 to 10 minutes of a warm-up activity, such as walking, jogging in place or jumping rope. This process will warm and prepare the muscles for activity while minimizing the risk of injury. End each workout with a cool down period, and some light muscle stretching.
  • Think light weights and controlled repetitions. One set of 12 to 20 repetitions at a lighter weight is all it takes. Young adolescences do not need weights specially sized for them. They can safely lift adult-size weights as long as the weight is not too heavy. The resistance does not have to come from weights either. Resistance tubing can be just as effective, especially for younger children.
  • Rest between workouts. Establish a rest period that consists of at least one day between strength training workouts. Two or three training sessions per week are plenty.
  • Track progress. Teach your lifters how to fill out a chart showing his or her exercises, repetitions, and how much weight or resistance he or she is using during a workout. This information will be helpful to monitoring progress.
  • Add weight gradually. Only when your student masters proper form should you add weight. If they cannot do 10 repetitions with proper technique at a specific weight, the weight is too heavy.

Contraindicated Activities

  • The catch phases of the power clean. The catch phase of the power clean may damage the bones, tendons, and ligaments that produce flexion, extension, ulnar flexion, and radial flexion of the wrist. Replace the finish of the power clean with a high pull; do not use the catch phase. (The catch phase can be described as the upward movement of the bar from a resting position on the floor to chest height or the highest point in the movement of the bar. This movement then involves a braking action to stop the momentum of the bar. This movement evolves as the elbows drop under the bar and the wrists move from flexion to hyperextension to absorb the force of the weight and prevent the downward movement of the bar. This process places a great deal of stress on the boney and ligamentous structures of the wrist.)
  • An additional contraindicated power movement is the full squat. The lower phase of the full squat may damage ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and some muscle tissue that produce flexion and extension of the knee. Replace the full squat with quarter or half squats.
  • The lowest part of the downward movement of the barbell when performing the bench press may be a contraindicated activity. Place a folded towel approximate 2-3 inches in height across the sternum. Then, perform the bench press by lowering the bar until it makes contact with the towel. Next, stop the movement and begin executing the upward ascent of the barbell. Use this technique when performing the bench press. This movement not only reduces stress on the sternum and ribs, but also the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the shoulder joint.
  • Keep it fun. Vary the routine often. Weight lifters are more likely to stick with strength training if they do not get bored by it.

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)[2]


References

  1. Committee of Sports Medicine (2001) Strength training by children and adolescents.
    [WWW] Available from: https://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/pediatrics;107/6/1470.pdf [Accessed August 27, 2008]
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff (2006) Strength training: OK for kids when done correctly. [WWW] Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01010 [Accessed August 30, 2008]
  3. PANHGIS, J. et al. (2001) Growth plate injuries. [WWW] Available from: from https://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/926048658.html [Accessed August 28, 2008]

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • McDANIEL, L. et al. (2009) Strength Development for Young Adolescents [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article043.htm [Accessed

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.

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