Yes, resistance training is ok for kids – if it is a properly designed and supervised program. In fact, resistance training offers many benefits for the growing young person, but there are important caveats that need to be emphasized.
Here’s what you need to know about youth strength training.
WHAT IS RESISTANCE TRAINING?
Don’t confuse resistance (or strength) training with weight lifting, bodybuilding, or powerlifting. Resistance training can include Bodyweight exercises (pushups, pull-ups, squats, sit-ups); movements involving resistance bands or tubing; and movements involving the use of weight machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells.
IS RESISTANCE TRAINING SAFE FOR KIDS?
Several professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) support that a properly designed and supervised resistance training program is relatively safe for youth. In the vast majority of published studies, no overt clinical injuries have been reported during well-designed resistance training programs. Most injuries occur when youth are unsupervised.
WHAT AGE IS APPROPRIATE TO BEGIN RESISTANCE TRAINING?
Resistance training has been safely conducted on youth as young as 7. A rule of thumb is “as long as the child is mature enough to follow directions and practice proper technique”.
WILL RESISTANCE TRAINING STUNT MY CHILD’S GROWTH?
This statement comes from 1) a report of malnourished youth engaging in heavy labor, and 2) emergency room reports of fractured growth plates of youth performing improper lifting techniques, maximal lifts, and/or lack of qualified supervision. No effects on growth plates have been found from studies utilizing well-designed and supervised resistance training programs.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD MY CHILD RESISTANCE TRAIN?
Youth resistance training studies have shown improvements in muscular strength and power from as little as one training session per week with the greatest results coming from a frequency of 2-3 days per week.
WHAT MAKES A RESISTANCE TRAINING PROGRAM SAFE AND EFFECTIVE FOR THE YOUNG ATHLETE?
Qualified instruction and supervision. This does not mean a former college athlete… the person should have formal academic training and credentials in kinesiology or exercise science. The person should also understand growth and maturation and have experience working with young people. They are not miniature adults!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Joe Eisenmann, Ph.D. is a professor of pediatric exercise medicine within the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Director of Spartan Performance. To learn more about Spartan Performance visit snapp.msu.edu