Fitness training for youth has traditionally been based mainly on aerobic exercise rather than strength training. The latter type of training is usually postponed at the end of the growth age, usually at the age of 18, even among those who are actively participating in sports.
It is believed that strength training carries a high risk of injury, can get children musclebound, and interfere with their physiology and normal growth.
However, this approach has no scientific evidence to support it. In fact, both the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorse strength training as a safe and effective activity for this age group, provided that the programs properly designed and competently supervised.
What is Strength Training?
It is important to highlight that strength-training is a specialized form of physical conditioning that is distinct from the competitive sports of weightlifting and powerlifting in which the goal is to lift maximum amounts of weights in competition. Strength training programs may include the use of free weights, weight machines, elastic tubing, or an athlete’s own body weight (freehand exercises).
Let’s Bust The Myths
Strength Training Can Cause Injury and Stunt Growth
Well, any sport or recreational activity carries an inherent risk. Strength training, under supervision, is no more dangerous than other forms of activity (Faigenbaum). The key is to conduct a supervised strength training program that is well designed to include the appropriate exercises, proper loads, repetitions and sets. Another common concern is the possibility of arrested growth due to damaged epiphyseal growth plates, which are vital structures that determine the shape and final length of bones. There have been rare case reports of growth plate fractures but these are attributed to equipment misuse, excessive weights and improper technique, reiterating the need to have qualified adult supervision (Caine). In fact, there is a greater risk in sports that involve repetitive impact, like gymnastics and baseball (Cahill, 1999).
Strength Training Makes You Musclebound and Slow You Down.
Strength Training Can Lead To Steroid Use
The Many Benefits of Resistance Training
Weight-bearing exercises are well known in their ability to increase bone mineral density, thereby decreasing the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Bone mineral density is a measure of calcium and other minerals in bone and is an important predictor of bone health and risk of bone fractures. Numerous scientific studies have investigated the effect of resistance training on bone mineral density. Scientists from Cologne Sports University in Germany (ref) In 1994, Welton and colleagues showed the skeleton is most responsive to strength training benefits during growth. This means strength training is most beneficial for young women before the age of 16 and young men before the age of 18. Evidently, the benefits acquired are long term. Post-menopausal women suffered fewer hip fractures if they had engaged in weight-bearing activity as young girls. In addition to decreasing the risk of osteoporosis, strength training: * strengthens ligaments and tendons * readies soft tissues to produce the forces associated with play, making them more pliable and resistant to external forces * improves motor fitness skills, such as jumping and sprinting, which are often required in sports performance. In addition to decreasing the risk of osteoporosis, strength training: * strengthens ligaments and tendons * readies soft tissues to produce the forces associated with play, making them more pliable and resistant to external forces * improves motor fitness skills, such as jumping and sprinting, which are often required in sports performance. Strength Training May Also Work as Medicine Getting Started References Faigenbaum AD, Kraemer WJ, Cahill, et al. Youth resistance training: Position statement paper and literature review. J Strength Cond Res. 1996;18:62 Caine D, DiFiori J, Maffulli N. Physeal injuries in children’s and youth sports: reasons for concern? Br J Sports Med. 2006 Sep; 40(9):749-60.
About The Author
Veeraj Goyaram, BSc (Hons), MSc Exer. Sci (UCT)