Youth Strength Training

At Williams Sport Training one of the most common questions we get is, is my child old enough to begin strength training?  Exercise physiologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics both support the implementation of strength and resistance training programs for young children. Studies show that a moderate intensity strength training program can help increase strength, decrease the risks of injury while playing sports, and increase bone density in children. Exercise physiologists aren’t the only ones recommending resistance training; the American Academy of Pediatrics has also put forth a pro-strength training for children statement.(1)

The American Academy of Pediatrics position on strength training supports the implementation of strength and resistance training programs, even for prepubescent children, which are monitored by well-trained adults and take into account the child’s maturation level.  There is one big limitation, the AAP suggests to avoid repetition maximal lifts. (1)  Lifting for your repetition max is lifting as much weight as you can for five, three, or one rep(s).  It is suggested the kids don’t perform maximum lifts until they have reached Tanner Stage 5 of maturity in this stage adolescents will have passed their period of maximal velocity of height growth. (1)

If appropriate training guidelines are followed, regular participation in a youth strength-training program has the potential to increase bone mineral density, improve motor performance skills, enhance sports performance, and better prepare young athletes for the demands of practice and competition. Resistance training enhances strength and muscular endurance in youth and children.  In pre-pubescent children, this increase in strength appears to be the result of neuromuscular activation and coordination supporting evidence that androgens (the hormones largely responsible for increased strength and muscle mass) are not needed for strength gain. With proper supervision, children and youth who participate in a strength training program are not at an increased risk for injury compared to children and youth who do not participate in such a program. (3)

Research has been done on moderate weight training programs with children as young as 8 years.(2) However, researchers also recognize the use of callisthenic-type exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups.  Body-weight resistance exercises are a good starting point for most children under the age of 8, or those at any age who are just starting a strength training program.  The object of this type of program is to introduce the body to the stresses of training and to teach basic technique.  After a foundation is established, light weight training can be introduced. Fleck and Kraemer recommend a training scheme of 10-15 repetitions and 1-3 sets per muscle group. The weight should be one that the child can lift for 10-15 repetitions without going to muscular failure.  Once a base has been established, the amount of exercises and the weight lifted can be increased. When a child has reached puberty (around age 13 for girls and 15 for boys) and a training foundation has been established, a more advanced periodized routine can be incorporated.(2)

The WST youth program in cooperates speed & agility with body weight strength training to increase coordination, increase motor performance skills, increase bone mineral density, and enhances overall performance.  Williams Sport trainers progress our youth athletes the appropriate and safe way to prevent injury and make them become better athletes!

1.  American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Strength, Weight and Power Lifting, and Body Building by Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 1990; 5: 801-803.
2. Fleck, S.J., Kraemer, W. J. Strength Training for Young Athletes. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1993.
3. Faigenbaum, A.D. Strength training for children and adolescents. Clinical Sports Medicine. 2000; 4: 593-619.