Should My Child Do Resistance Training?
There is an ongoing debate between coaches, parents and many others when deciding whether children and adolescents should partake in resistance training. The debate often comes with a pre conceived stigma and some controversial talking points such as; Won’t it stunt their growth? Shouldn’t they wait till they are fully developed? Are they going to get injured?
What the Professionals Say
Both US and UK Strength and Conditioning Associations advocate the use of multi joint exercises and loading patterns in a youth training programme. Within the sports industry (UKSCA), there is widespread concurrence that resistance training for children and youths is beneficial for health, injury prevention as well as athletic development. Resistance training being forms of exercise where you body is moved against resistance ranging from bodyweight exercises to bands dumbbells barbells and machines. World renowned researcher and practitioner of youth training, Dr Avery Faigenbaum, states that children around the world, as young as eight, are safely and effectively learning to ‘lift’ and complete complex training movements with the safety of full supervision from an industry professional and the assurance of of unloaded weight bars. Youth in this instance being anywhere from 7-9 up to 16-18 years old, with a series of considerations for each age bracket in between these ranges.
Gymnastics, Golf, Football…Why Not Resistance Training?
Some believe that youth athletes have to wait for a trigger from the effect of hormones to initiate puberty in order to see improved performance in physical conditioning. This is a common misconception around puberty. If we look at beginners in youth gymnastics we see children not being able to perform simple moveents and body weight exercises. However, within a few weeks or months it’s possible to see big improvements and proficiency in these abilities, as gymnastics serves as resistance training for the youth and leads to increased physical performance. Accompanied evidence which indicates the nervous system function can be improved ahead of the release of hormones that are associated with puberty. As the nervous system is linked with force production, both correlate to potential performance enhancements in youth athletes.
We often see children from a young age performing skill based sports exercises (golf swings, kicking footballs, swimming technique) all in the effort to develop their skills and ideally, ‘get better’. This is also applicable for movement and motor control – why not also train the body that’s performing the movements? With resistance training leading to more efficient motor control, coordination, and ability to execute quicker movement after stimulus from the brain to the central nervous system. All of these factors contributing to an improved sports specific performance.
Won’t Resistance Training Stunt My Child’s Growth?
Little to no evidence exists regarding the affects of resistance training on youth athletes. Studies carried out by Dvorkin, who tracked many large groups of adolescence who had undergone weight training from the age of 13-19, compared with non exercising peer groups of similar age, showed no indication of stunted growth.
Long term youth resistance training will elicit the following responses:
- Increased bone density and skeletal strength;
- Increased coordination and movement efficiency;
- Increased neurological and decision making capacity;
- Increased mobility and injury prevention;
- Increased sleep and eating habits.
When performed under the supervision of a qualified professional all of the above is possible for youth athletes, along with the additional benefit of improved confidence and a healthy sense of well being. Therefore all of the above answers the questions that no, youths will not need to wait until puberty, no there aren’t any negative impacts from training, their growth won’t be stunted and under the correct guidance and supervision they won’t get injured.
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Article by: David Markham, Hybrid MMA & Fitness