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?
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), 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:
A study conducted by Hamill (1994) of the British Weight Lifting Association reported injury rates in a variety of recreational sports per 100 participant-hours. The results are shown below:
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) 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) states in their position stand on youth resistance training that:
They also go on to say that:
The RFU (rugby football Union) position stand also states that Strength training may enhance bone development in younger children (Mackelvie et al. 2002).
So in terms of safety I think that addresses the question of strength training with youth populations. In summary:
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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.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: