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When is the Best Time to Start Resistance Training?

Resistance training has been around for a long time, and is not going anywhere anytime soon. With athletics on the rise and getting more competitive year after year, athletes are looking for ways to set themselves apart from those around them. One of these ways is resistance (strength) training. Resistance training has a lot of benefits associated with it when done correctly, however it has been pegged as inappropriate or harmful for some populations. Bringing up the ever popular questions, is weight lifting safe for my child or will lifting weights stunt my child’s grow? All of these risks and concerns are important to look at and not simply swept under the rug. There are a lot of benefits that can come from resistance training even at a young age.

One of the biggest concerns, is resistance training safe especially for my 4th grader? No matter how old or how experienced someone is there is always the risk of injury especially in the weight room. Many injuries happen due to lack of supervision, inappropriate training techniques, excessive loading, poorly designed equipment, and access to the equipment (1). Even with all these factors present, injuries can still happen. However, there have been only three studies published that have reported resistance training injuries in children (a shoulder strain that resolved in 1 week of rest (6), a shoulder strain that resulted in 1 missed training session (3), and a nonspecific anterior thigh pain that resolved in 5 minutes of rest (1,4). Many people see the weight room as a dangerous place that should only be used by adults. However, we do not take into consideration the ramifications of playing organized activities. Sports are played at extremely high speeds (relative to age and experience) and can cause injury just by playing them. However, no one says I don’t want my child playing this sport or this sport because it is dangerous to their health or may effect them later in life. In a study that evaluated the incidence of sports-related injuries in school aged youth over a 1-year period (5), resistance training resulted in 0.7% of the 1576 injuries whereas football, basketball, and soccer resulted in approximately 19, 15, and 2% respectively of all injuries (2,7,8,9). When a strength and conditioning program is set up with the health and safety of the child and age group in mind we can effectively train youth athletes.

Resistance training has received a bad reputation in the youth population because more and more athletes are getting injured. With these increasing injuries there is a concern that young athletes will harm their growth cartilage which will effect their ability to grow and fully develop. This is a huge concern especially in the sport of basketball where we can use all the height we can get. Through countless articles I have found there to be no detrimental effect of resistance training on linear growth in children and adolescents (10,14). Meaning children are still growing normally with resistance training being incorporated into their daily routines.  Children as young as 5 and 6 years have benefited from regular participation in a resistance training program (12,15, 16). If resistance training isn’t causing harm or effecting our children’s development, why aren’t we doing it. These myths or stereotypes are coming from a few incidents where there was no supervision or loading these athletes too quickly to get the results now. In a lot weight rooms numbers are king. No one brags about how flawless their technique is. Whoever has the heaviest squat or bench is king and looked up to. Childhood and adolescence may be the opportune time for the bone modeling and remolding process to respond to the tensile and compressive forces associated with weight-bearing activities (1,13,17,18,19). We need to get out of thinking that results need to come now and start focusing on the process of learning these skills to be able to transfer them to our sport. It does not matter if you squat twice your body weight and can jump the highest if your sitting on the bench. Resistance training is crucial during these times of growth because it allows the athlete to navigate through these times of change and keeps them safe and healthy.

As a strength and conditioning professional it is our responsibility to implement sound programs that provide safety and continued growth to everyone that works through our doors.

Resistance training has plenty of benefits that outweigh the negatives and I believe is crucial to a young athlete’s development. As humans we are becoming more sedentary and finding ourselves in front of screens rather than outside moving and being active. When we sit for extended periods of time we alter our movement patterns and our posture. We start to limit our ability to obtain a full range of motion. Through athletics and resistance training we can start to correct these poor postures and movements. Young athletes can see positive benefits to their strength and overall development from getting into a strength performance program.

Strength gains up to 74%(20) have been reported after 8 weeks of progressive resistance training, although gains of roughly 30% typically observed after short-term (8-20 weeks) youth resistance training programs. Reported relative (% change above initial levels) strength gains achieved during preadolescence are equal to if not greater than the relative gains observed during adolescence (1,21,22,23,24).  When athletes get stronger we generally see less injuries because the athlete can more effectively absorb the forces being produced or acted upon. Resistance training teaches the muscles around a joint, ligament, or tendon can respond to these outside stimuli and protect them through different ranges of motion. Starting a resistance training program is great for muscular and neural development but it can provide so much more to our young athletes. Resistance training can improve one’s cardiovascular risk profile, facilitate weight control, strengthen bone, enhance psychosocial wellbeing, improve motor performance skills, and increase a young athletes’ resistance to sports-related injuries (1). All of these help shape our athletes into the athletes we are hoping they will become. It will teach them proper movement techniques that they can carry over to whatever they do in their lives.

 

Resistance Training is much more than getting someone bigger or stronger, it is about facilitating an athletes’ development as they grow. At M14Hoops, our goal is to provide an injury free environment that helps support athletic development. By implementing age appropriate and science backed programs we can help increase a person’s athleticism, while also aim to reduce the chances of injury or at least reduce the severity if one does occur. Our first priority is safety followed by execution and then performance. We will teach and expect everyone that walks through our doors to perform in a safe and technically sound manner that will be developed over time to help their performance out on the court.

References:

  1. Faigenbaum, Avery D, et al. “Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 23, 2009, doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e31819df407.
  2. Brady, T, Cahill, B, and Bodnar, L. Weight training related injuries in the high school athlete. Am J Sports Med 10: 1–5, 1982.
  3. Lillegard, W, Brown, E, Wilson, D, Henderson, R, and Lewis, E. Efficacy of strength training in prepubescent to early postpubescent males and females: Effects of gender and maturity. Pediatr Rehabil 1: 147–157, 1997.
  4. Sadres, E, Eliakim, A, Constantini, N, Lidor, R, and Falk, B. The effect of long-term resistance training on anthropometric measures, muscle strength, and self-concept in pre-pubertal boys. Pediatr Exerc Sci 13: 357–372, 2001.
  5. Zaricznyj, B, Shattuck, L, Mast, T, Robertson, R, and D’Elia, G. Sports-related injuries in school-aged children. Am J Sports Med 8: 318–324, 1980.
  6. Rians,C,Weltman,A,Cahill,B,Janney,CA,Tippet,S,andKatch,F. Strength training for prepubescent males: Is it safe? Am J Sports Med 15: 483–489, 1987.
  7. Brown, E and Kimball, R. Medical history associated with adolescent power lifting. Pediatrics 72: 636–644, 1983.
  8. Gumbs,V,Segal,D,Halligan,J,andLower,G.Bilateraldistalradius and ulnar fractures in adolescent weight lifters. Am J Sports Med 10: 375–379, 1982.
  9. Ryan, J and Salciccioli, G. Fractures of the distal radial epiphysis in adolescent weight lifters. Am J Sports Med 4: 26–27, 1976.
  10. Andersen, L, Wedderkopp, N, and Leboeuf-Yde, C. Association between back pain and physical fitness in adolescents. Spine 31: 1740–1744,2006.
  11. Malina, R. Weight training in youth-growth, maturation and safety: An evidenced based review. Clin J Sports Med 16: 478–487, 2006.
  12. Annesi,J,Westcott,W,Faigenbaum,A,andUnruh,J.Effectsofa12 week physical activity program delivered by YMCA after-school counselors (Youth Fit for Life) on fitness and self-efficacy changes in 5–12 year old boys and girls. Res Q Exerc Sport 76: 468–476, 2005.
  13. Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. Resistance training for children and youth: A position stand from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. 2007. Available
  14. Annesi, J, Faigenbaum, A, Westcott, W, Smith, A, Unruh, J, and Franklin G. Effects of the Youth Fit for Life protocol on physiological, mood, self-appraisal, and voluntary physical activity changes in African American preadolescents: Contrasting after- school care and physical education formats. Int J Clin Health Psychol 7: 641–659, 2007.
  15. Faigenbaum, A, Westcott, W, Loud, R, and Long, C. The effects of different resistance training protocols on muscular strength and endurance development in children. Pediatrics 104: e5, 1999.
  16. Weltman, A, Janney, C, Rians, C, Strand, K, Berg, B, Tippit, S, Wise, J, Cahill, B, and Katch, F. The effects of hydraulic resistance strength training in pre-pubertal males. Med Sci Sports Med 18: 629–638, 1986.
  17. Hind, K and Borrows, M. Weight-bearing exercise and bone mineral accrual in children and adolescents: A review of controlled trials. Bone 51: 81–101, 2007.
  18. Turner, C and Robling, A. Designing exercise regimens to increase bone strength. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 31: 45–50, 2003.
  19. Vicente-Rodriquez, G. How does exercise affect bone development during growth? Sports Med 36: 561–569, 2006.
  20. Faigenbaum, A, Zaichkowsky, L, Westcott, W, Micheli, L, and Fehlandt, A. The effects of a twice per week strength training program on children. Pediatr Exerc Sci 5: 339–346, 1993.
  21. Lillegard, W, Brown, E, Wilson, D, Henderson, R, and Lewis, E. Efficacy of strength training in prepubescent to early postpubescent males and females: Effects of gender and maturity. Pediatr Rehabil 1: 147–157, 1997.
  22. Nielsen, B, Nielsen, K, Behrendt-Hansen, M, and Asmussen, E. Training of ‘‘functional muscular strength’’ in girls 7–19 years old. In: Children and Exercise IX. Berg, K and Eriksson, B eds. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press, 1980. pp. 69–77.
  23. Pfeiffer, R and Francis, R. Effects of strength training on muscle development in prepubescent, pubescent and postpubescent males. Phys Sportsmed 14: 134–143, 1986.
  24. Westcott, W. Female response to weight lifting. J Phys Educ 77: 31–33, 1979.
  25. Quote from Corey Schleslinger, Stanford University- Men’s Basketball, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach