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Weight Training For Children and Adolescents: A debate Continues!

Updated: Apr 29

I have had many parents of aspiring athletes ask me about weights training. In particular, they want to know what is safe. Then following safety, what is beneficial is the next question. Resistance training is one component to athlete development that has been proven to be beneficial to performance. Research has shown the positive effects resistance training can have on muscle strength, power, running speed, agility and general motor performance (Lloyd et at, 2013). It is however vital to integrate resistance training appropriately into your routine. The ability to integrate it into your program is made more challenging when planning for younger athletes. Some key points to follow include:

  • Wait until the child is old enough – current research indicates that an appropriately designed resistance program can help youth of all ages (Lloyd et at, 2013). However we must ask ourselves is resistance training the most important component to focus on. Is it more important to focus on the enjoyment physical activity can bring and the key fundamental motor skills that are vital to the development of sport specific skills. In my experience ensuring all children develop a love for activity is pertinent to assist developing healthy, happy and active adults of the future.

  • Don’t over do it – children and adolescents adapt very quickly and if not monitored appropriately can progress their level of resistance or overall load far too quickly. Keep in mind when we are talking load we are not just looking at what weight was lifted during a session, week or 6 week block. Rather we are looking at the overall load the child’s skeletal system has absorbed over a period of time. This ranges from and is not limited to the activity they perform at school in the playground and during PE, club sports and even play time at home. As you can appreciate keeping track of this overall load can be quite complex.

  • Supervision – this is a key point! You want someone watching over their technique to ensure correct form is maintained throughout and also to closely monitor their load. The more children practice and critique their skills and technique the stronger this positive motor pattern becomes.

If your child is ready to start a resistance program the next question is what? A lot of people feel machines are the safest option to move forward with. I am hesitant with this assumption as these machines are designed for the general population and provide slight alterations to help make the piece of equipment fit you. With growing bodies and therefore smaller leavers I feel not all machines suit their biomechanics and therefore can cause technique deficiencies in the future. Due to advances in gym equipment, some items can be used efficiently and effectively for young athletes if guided by a specialised health professional.

The transition into resistance exercise does not need to be performed in a gym, as there are so many beneficial body weighted exercises that should be performed and mastered before this progression is made. I have found even those who have attended a gym for many years can have deficiencies and therefore find certain body weight exercises difficult, as they have not developed the stability required.

Weight Training Program for Young Athletes or Matures

A basic program could consist of the below as a starting point. However, I recommend all athletes young or mature to obtain professional specific advice for a program to be tailored to their needs, goals, deficiencies and prior exposure. 1. Walking lunges: 1-3 sets of 12 meters 2. Push-ups: 1-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions (choose appropriate starting point) If you are unable to perform a complete push up start at the top of the movement and lower as slowly as possible then repeat. 3. Single leg squats / sit to stands: 1-3 sets of 3-8 repetitions (left and right) 4. Chin ups: 1-3 sets of 2-5 repetitions (choose appropriate starting point) If you are unable to perform a complete chin up start at the top of the movement and lower as slowly as possible then repeat. 5. Air Squats: 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions 6. Supine pull-ups: 1-3 sets of 5-15 repetitions You can perform this with rings as per picture above or using a straight bar which can often be found around your local football oval. 7. Plank: 1-3 sets of 5-60 seconds Choose an entry point that is comfortably achievable to focus on technique and slowly progress sets and repetitions from there. For those more advanced starting at a higher number of repetitions and then progressing this number may be required. I don’t hide the fact I incorporate a lot of legs, as this is the platform that power is produced, transferred and required during land based running sports. I also incorporate more pulling exercises than pressing to compensate for the common issues I see in athletes and quite often the general public.

References: Rhodri, S, Lloyd, E, Avery, D, Faigenbaum, Michael, H, Stone, Jon, L, Oliver, Ian, Jeffreys, Jeremy, A, Moody, Clive, Brewer, Kyle, C, Pierce, Teri, M, McCambridge, Rick, Howard, Lee, Herrington, Brian, Hainline, Lyle, J, Micheli, Rod, Jaques, William, J, Kraemer, Michael, G, McBride, Thomas, M, Best, Donald, A, Chu, Brent, A, Alvar, & Gregory, D, Myer 2013. ‘Position statement on youth resistance training: the 2014 International Consensus’British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 48, no. 7.

Written By:

Tim Delvins Body Fit Physiotherapy North Adelaide

If you want to learn about what exercises you need to achieve your goals and why, find out more about our I Commit Exercise classes or our Athlete Development Program.

Contact us at (08) 8267 6432 or for further information or guidance.

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