The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) updated their position statement on youth resistance training in 2009. The benefits of strength training for children (ages 11-13) have been well documented and there are really no pertinent research that states otherwise. One of the main reasons why resistance training wasn’t recommended was the presumed risk of injury. The fact is that many injuries that were lifting related were due to inappropriate technique, excessive loads, and lack of adult supervision. Is it not interesting that these are still major factors even for the older population (high school on up)? The current position of the NSCA is that a properly designed and supervised resistance training program…
- is relatively safe for youth
- can enhance the muscular strength and power of youth
- can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth
- can improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth
- can increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports related injuries
- can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth
- can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence
One interesting study evaluated the incidence of sport-related injuries in school aged youth over a 1 year period and resistance training resulted in 0.7% of 1576 injuries whereas football, basketball, and soccer resulted in around 19, 15, and 2%. In general, resistance training injuries to high school athletes appear to involve extreme progression training loads and technique (all of this is in the statement paper).
What about damage to growth cartilage?
There are 3 main sites for growth cartilage: the end of long bones, cartilage lining of joint surfaces, and at points where major tendons attach to bones (apophysis). There were case reports that the paper had injuries occur in preadolescent and adolescent kids. However, again it was due to improper technique, maximal lifts, and lack of supervision. Furthermore, growth cartilage has not been reported in ANY prospective youth resistance training research study.
Resistance Training Guideline Recommendations
Again it is important to realize that resistance training is paramount in improving the qualities for the bulleted list above for young kids and here are some of the suggestions provided…
- Qualified instruction and supervision
- Start with 5-10 dynamic warm up
- Relatively light loads focusing on proper technique
- Sets: 1-3 Reps: 6-15, focusing on upper and lower body strength
- Power exercises 1-3 sets for 3-6 reps
- Proper progressions
The guidelines in the paper make sense for most individuals: proper form, proper loading protocols, quality warm-up & cool-down, and focus on full body strength (upper & lower). Face it to say that if we followed most of these guidelines with our lifting we would prevent injury, improve performance, and improved body composition.