Youth Resistance Training Guidelines
Resistance training for youth athletes has previously been discouraged. In the 1970’s and 1980’s retrospective studies showed that resistance training was unsafe due to potential injury to growth cartilage (Faigenbaum, Myer, Naclerio, & Casas, 2011). However, injuries in these studies were due to unqualified supervision, and improper technique. Later research has shown that resistance training is generally safe for youth under qualified supervision, and has been shown to improve strength, cardiovascular endurance, body composition, bone mineral density, mental health, and resistance to injury (Faigenbaum & Myer, 2011). The myth that resistance exercise is damaging to youth persists however, and fitness professionals must continually educate parents and youth sports coaches about the fallacy of increased injury risk, and the benefits of resistance exercise.
Resistance training is vital for youth as it leads to children developing life-long exercise habits. Muscular strength helps young people develop motor skills and movement competencies, and helps youth establish active lifestyles, which will help prevent adverse health outcomes (Faigenbaum, Lloyd, & Myer, 2013). Most strength gains in youth are associated with neuromuscular adaptations, like increased intramuscular coordination and intermuscular coordination, opposed to muscle growth. For optimal strength gains Faigenbaum et al. (2013) recommend 2-3 sets of 6-8 exercises for 8-15 repetitions at an intensity of 60-80% 1RM on 2-3 nonconsecutive days. Beginning exercisers should work on perfecting their form and technique at light or moderate loads, before gradually increasing load depending on the client’s needs.
Although there are no hard rules for the correct age to begin resistance training, it is generally acceptable for 7-8 year old’s to begin weight training (Faigenbaum & McFarland, 2016). It is important for the coach to take in the emotional maturity and physical maturity of their young clients. Not all 7-8 year olds are at the same place developmentally. At the very least the student should be able to follow directions, and be safe in a weight training environment.
Faigenbaum, A. D., & Myer, G. D. (2011). Pediatric resistance training. Revista Kronos, 10(1), 31-38.
Faigenbaum, A. D., Myer, G. D., Naclerio, F., & Casas, A. A. (2011). Injury trends and prevention in youth resistance training. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33(3), 36-41.
Faigenbaum, A. D., & McFarland, J. E. (2016). Resistance training for kids: Right from the start. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, 20(5), 16-22.
Faigenbaum, A. D., Lloyd, R. S., & Myer, G. D. (2013). Youth resistance training: Past practices, new perspectives, and future directions. Pediatric Exercise Science, 25(4), 591-604.