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Children & Resistance Training - Part 3

Brendan Chaplin examines the statement: What are the benefits of resistance training for 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 first article considers the question of safety, the second article considers if they need it and this article looks at the benefits of resistance training and an example program.

What benefits can be expected?

Contrary to the traditional belief that strength training and plyometric training are dangerous for children, it is now suggested that such training can be a safe and effective activity.

Convoy et al. (1993)[1] and Virvidakis et al. (1990)[2] found that the bone mineral content of junior Olympic weight lifters was greater than those who do not lift. Fleck & Kraemer (2005)[3] indicate that bone density peak in boys is between 13 & 15 years & therefore resistance (strength) training may be important during these times.

Peer-reviewed research indicates that strength training may be beneficial to young athletes through:

  • the prevention of injuries
  • improved body composition
  • improved sports performance due to increased strength, power and muscular endurance

Kraemer et al. (1989)[4], Ozmun et al. (1994)[5] and Ramsay et al. (1990)[6] show the benefits of resistance training in terms of strength gain and injury prevention. In preadolescents, proper resistance training can enhance strength without concomitant muscle hypertrophy. Such gains in strength can be attributed to neuromuscular "learning," in which training increases the number of motor neurons that will fire with each muscle contraction.

Are they ready for it?

Faigenbaum (2002)[6] from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, who is perhaps the most prolific researcher in this area, stated:

"Although there is no minimum age requirement for participation in a youth resistance-training program, all participants should have the emotional maturity to accept and follow direction and should genuinely appreciate the potential benefits and risks associated with youth strength training."

What does youth strength training look like?

Squats

So, if you accept that the work needs to be done, what should the early stage programme look like? Here is a beginner's programme taken from the ASCA position statement:

A beginning program would comprise a basic 3 day per week circuit type whole body program performed on alternate days (i.e. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) of the following exercises:

  • Basic warm up (5-minute jog or cycle etc plus 2-3 minutes of dynamic stretching)
  • Step ups (both left and right legs) (quadriceps, hamstring and gluteal muscles) - 20 to 30 cm step or chair
  • Push ups (pectorals, deltoid and triceps brachii muscles) - off knees initially progressing onto toes as strength increases
  • Star jumps (quadriceps, adductors, gluteal muscles)
  • Abdominal crunches (abdominals and hip flexors) - as strength increases progress towards bent legged sit ups
  • Chair dips (triceps brachii muscle) - initially have legs close to the chair and use the legs and arms to raise the body. As strength increases progressively move legs further away from the chair
  • 90-degree wall sit (quadriceps and gluteal muscles)
  • Reverse back extensions (lower back, gluteal and hamstring muscles) - lying face down with torso over table or bench and lift legs to level of hips hold top position for 1-2 seconds and repeat
  • Hover (abdominal, hip flexor and lower back muscles) - initially off knees progressing to toes.
  • Cool down and stretch - (5 minutes jog or cycle etc and 5 minutes of stretching)

Progression:

Start at stage 1 when the circuit is comfortably achieved by the athlete progress onto the next stage.

  • Stage 1: Perform 20 seconds of each exercise for as many controlled repetitions as possible followed by 40 seconds rest and then move onto the next exercise. Perform 1 circuit - total workout time approximately 25 minutes (including warm up and cool down).
  • Stage 2: Perform 30 seconds of each exercise for as many controlled repetitions as possible followed by 40 seconds rest and then move onto the next exercise. Perform 1 circuit - total workout time approximately 27 minutes (including warm up and cool down).
  • Stage 3: Perform the same as stage 2 but repeat the circuit 2 times - total workout time approximately 38 minutes.
  • Stage 4: Perform 2 circuits but increase exercise time to 40 seconds per exercise with 50 seconds recovery - total workout time approximately 40 minutes.
  • Stage 5: Perform 2 circuits but increase exercise time to 50 seconds per exercise with 50 seconds recovery - total workout time approximately 43 minutes.
  • Stage 6: Perform 2 circuits but increase exercise time to 60 seconds per exercise with 60 seconds recovery - total workout time approximately 47 minutes. At this stage the athlete can keep the same circuit but try and increase the intensity of some of the exercises. For example, some options include:
    • Increasing the step height for the step ups
    • Push ups off toes rather than knees
    • Progress from crunches to bent legged sit ups
    • Chair dips performed with legs progressively further from the chair
    • Hover off toes rather than off knees

Although I am not a lover of the crunches or the push-ups off knees, I think that the progression is sound, and this programme will achieve results in the youngsters.

Machines are not the way forward, a good S&C coach working with children and adolescents should incorporate as much bodyweight and free weight type activities as possible


References

  1. CONVEY et al. (1993) Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, 25
  2. VIRVIDAKIS et al. (1990) International Journal of Sports Medicine, 11
  3. FLECK, S. KRAEMER, W. (2005) Strength Training for Young Athletes. London, Human Kinetics, p.24
  4. KRAEMER, W. J. et al. (1989) Resistance training and youth. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 1, p. 336–350 .
  5. OZMUN, J.C. et al. (1994) Neuromuscular adaptations following prepubescent strength training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 26, p. 510 –514
  6. RAMSAY, J. A. et al. (1990) Strength training effects in prepubescent boys. Issues and controversies. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 22, p. 605–614
  7. FAIGENBAUM, A.D. (2002) Resistance training for Adolescent Athletes. Athletic Therapy.  November p. 32-35

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 3 [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article114.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Brendan Chaplin is currently Head of Strength and Conditioning at Leeds Metropolitan University. In this role Brendan oversees 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 Hub site. 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.

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