There are three phrases I hear time and time again about youth training: “Is is safe for my kids to be lifting weights?” “Doesn’t that stunt their growth?” “Will my children even benefit from strength training if they have not gone through puberty?” I can assure every parent not to worry about any of these factors; your children will be safe lifting weights.
Injury risk to children participating in weight training was no higher than the risk posed from participating in other sports. In fact, studies have concluded that participating in resistance training or weight lifting posed less risk than other sports. The use of plyometrics (jumping, explosive movement) and weight training in youth actually decreases the injury risk to athletes on the field of play. These observations are predicated on the notion that qualified supervision and appropriate programming of strength training is implemented. A qualified strength coach will hold a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or exercise science and be a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS).
Bone development is another concern that many parents have. Growth plate injuries are a serious concern among youth. This risk is increased by overuse, long and frequent practices. It is shown that puberty is the most opportune time to participate in weight bearing activity, to model bone and create a stronger bone structure that will better resist breaking. Bone mineral density will increase as a result of participating in resistance training, which will reduce the risk of fractures later in life. In short, growth plate injuries will be diminished by participating in weight training that is properly programmed.
Before children go through puberty they do not have enough muscle building hormones present in their body to build muscle. Weight training will, however, have a positive effect on the ability for the athlete to organize movement and they will get stronger. Most of the adaptations in early strength training have to do with how movement is organized and not the growth of muscle. Youth athletes will benefit from working on the software much more than worrying about working on the hardware.
Youth training is safe and beneficial. Weight training will decrease injury risk, allow for the athlete to exhibit more force, power and speed on the field of play, increase bone mineral density and teach children how to control movement better. Finding a qualified professional to properly program training is paramount in ensuring the safety of children while resistance training.
Jimmy McCurry, CSCS, is the owner of Progressive Performance in Woodinville. www.progressiveperformance.net.