Strength Training for Children & Adolescents
Strength training with correct programming and supervision from qualified and experienced coaches is a safe and effective method of improving health and athletic performance for both children and adolescents.
Controversy regarding safety and necessity of strength training for children and adolescents is an ongoing area of discussion. Appropriate prescription and coaching of strength programs applied correctly has significant benefits in improving health and performance. However, inappropriately prescribed and poorly supervised strength programs increase the risk of injury when applied to physiologically or psychologically immature individuals.
The purpose of this paper is to advocate the safety and effectiveness of strength training for children and adolescents, and from this information with supporting evidence provide appropriate strength training protocols to improve health and performance.
The key topics of child and adolescent strength training discussed in the paper are Age Identification, Growth and Maturation, Benefits and Motives, Risks of Strength Training, Long Term Athletic Development, Design of Age Appropriate Strength Programs and High-Quality Coaching and Supervision.
The main findings, supported by available evidence, include strength programming can no longer be based on chronological age alone and that there are health, performance and injury preventative benefits from strength training. Additionally, no adverse effects on growth plate structures are apparent with the application of appropriate strength programs. Injury risks are reduced with appropriately prescribed strength programs and qualified supervision in organised training environments. Strength training should adopt a long-term development approach and adolescent weight programs should be programmed and monitored by appropriately qualified and experienced coaches.
Practical recommendations discussed include the application of ‘Age Identification’ when designing strength programs; initiating with multilateral development before progressing to specific modes of strength training; applying training variables appropriate to child or adolescent programs with specific attention to exercise choice, volume and intensity; and relevant qualification standards for coaches involved with adolescent weight training.
Key Words - Children, adolescents, age identification, growth, strength, coaching, risks.
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