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Children & Resistance Training - Part 1

Brendan Chaplin examines the statement: Is resistance training safe to use with children and adolescents?

Fact or Fallacy: Children should not train with weights? There are a few questions to be answered in this debate which are:

  • Is resistance training safe to use with children and adolescents?
  • Do they need it?
  • What are the benefits?

This article will answer the question of safety, the second article considers if they need it and the third article looks at the benefits of resistance training.

Is resistance training safe to use with children and adolescents?

This one really gets me going ... I cannot count how many individuals be they parents, trainers, even S&C coaches who have said to me that children (as in prepuberty) and adolescents (as in during/post puberty) should not start with weights until 16, 18 or some other random number for that matter.

Well if that is the case then they should not be playing sports either as statistics have shown that supervised weight training is safer than nearly all sports when it comes to injuries per 1000 hours of playing and there are a couple of studies that illustrate this. The highlights of which are shown below:

In a 21 month study by Sadres et al. (2001)[1], reported in the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association's position stand on youth resistance training, which was carried out on males aged 9 and 10 who were engaged in regular strength training programme there was one injury reported of which the details are shown below:

" on one occasion the bar slid and fell on the thighs of one of the subjects following a lift (clean). The child complained of transient non-specific pain in the anterior thigh and sat out for about 5 min. He returned to train within the same session when the pain was resolved and had no further complications. Therefore, it was felt that no additional medical evaluation was required. The calculated injury rate was 0.055/100 participant-hours."

A study conducted by Hamill (1994)[2] of the British Weight Lifting Association reported injury rates in a variety of recreational sports per 100 participant-hours. The results are shown below:

  • Resistance (strength) training 0.0035
  • Weight lifting for sport 0.0017
  • Soccer 6.20
  • Basketball 0.3
  • Football 0.1

Both of these studies clearly show that supervised weight training is safe for youngsters to engage in regularly in terms of immediate injuries, but what about the long term effects of strength training with children?

Long term effects

In an evidence based review paper by Malina (2006)[3] concluded: Experimental training protocols with weights and resistance machines and with supervision and low instructor/participant ratios are relatively safe and do not negatively impact growth and maturation of pre- and early-pubertal youth.

Washington et al. (2001)[4] states in their position stand on youth resistance training that:

"A limited number of case reports have raised concern about epiphyseal injuries in the wrist and apophyseal injuries in the spine from weight lifting in skeletally immature individuals. Such injuries are uncommon and are believed to be largely preventable by avoiding improper lifting techniques, maximal lifts, and improperly supervised lifts. Strength training programs do not seem to adversely affect linear growth and do not seem to have any long-term detrimental effect on cardiovascular health. Young athletes with hypertension may experience further elevation of blood pressure from the isometric demands of strength training."

They also go on to say that:

"Strength training programs for preadolescents and adolescents can be safe and effective if proper techniques and safety precautions are followed."

The RFU (rugby football Union) position stand also states that Strength training may enhance bone development in younger children (Mackelvie et al. 2002)[5].

Conclusion

So in terms of safety I think that addresses the question of strength training with youth populations. In summary:

  • Supervision is key! Do not let youngsters lift weights on their own just as they would not play rugby on their own.
  • Weight training is one of the safest activities for kids to engage in with supervision. Safer than the majority of sports out there in fact
  • There are no long term negative effects of weight training.


References

  1. SADRES, E. et al. (2001) The effect of long-term resistance training on anthropometric measures, muscle strength, and self concept in prepubertal boys. Pediatric Exercise Science. 13, p.357-372.
  2. HAMILL, B (1994) Relative safety of weight lifting and weight training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 8 (1), p. 53-57
  3. MALINA, R. M. (2006) Weight training in youth-growth, maturation, and safety: an evidence-based review. Clin J Sport Med. 16 (6), p. 478-87.
  4. WASHINGTON, R. L. et al. (2001) Strength Training by Children and Adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics, 107 (6) [WWW] Available from: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/6/1470.full.pdf [Accessed 30October 2012]
  5. MACKELVIE, K.J. et al. (2002) Is there a critical period for bone response to weight-bearing exercise in children and adolescents? A systematic review. British Journal of Sports
    Medicine
    36, 250–257.

Page Reference

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

  • CHAPLIN, B. (2012) Children & Resistance Training - Part 1 [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article112.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Brendan Chaplin is currently Head of Strength and Conditioning at Leeds Metropolitan University. In this role Brendan overseas all performance programmes across the university as well leading on the GB Badminton High performance Programme, Yorkshire Jets Super league netball, Women's FA through the English Institute of Sport, and Rugby League. Brendan is also the regional lead for TASS where he delivers and co-ordinates delivery for all funded athletes based at the Leeds Hubsite. He also consults with England Golf and works with a wide variety of athletes from martial artists to cyclists, children and adolescents alike. Prior to his current role Brendan has worked with a number of governing bodies and institutions including British Tennis, Huddersfield Giants, English Institute of Sport, Durham University and many more.

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: