Science Based Fact: Strength is Recommended for Kids!

Based on hundreds of studies and thousands of hours of research, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM ) have finally taken the position that age-appropriate resistance training is not only good for kids, but recommended.

Children under the ages of 11 in girls and 13 in boys used to be discouraged from participating in resistance exercise, for a variety of reasons. Based on the NSCA’ s new position on childhood strength training, children from the ages of 6 on, will now be encouraged to participate in a wide range of exercises involving linearly progressive resistance loads.

The exercises can include anything from bodyweight exercises, to plyometrics, weightlifting, odd object lifting, and intense cardiovascular performance. Snatches, cleans, and jerks are specifically mentioned as appropriate ‘ weight lifting’ exercises that are safe for children! Proper form and appropriate weight obviously is mandatory.

 

Important Health Benefits

The potential benefits of youth strength training extend beyond an increase in muscular strength and may include favorable changes in selected health and fitness-related measures.

If appropriate training guidelines are followed, regular participation in a youth strength-training program has the potential to:

  • Increase bone mineral density
  • Improve motor performance skills
  • Enhance sports performance
  • Better prepare our young athletes for the demands of practice and competition.

Important Social Benefits

It has been obvious to me for some time now that those kids in junior high and high school, who started weight training when they were younger than 10 years, had an advantage in gym class, extracurricular sports, had more friends inside and outside of school, and were generally stronger and healthier as adolescents and young adults.

Promote Childhood Resistance Training

It is now the objective of public health officials, to encourage boys and girls age 6 and older to regularly participate in activities that enhance muscular fitness. Parents, teachers, coaches, and healthcare providers should realize that youth strength training is a specialized method of conditioning that can offer enormous benefit to our children.

Qualified instruction, competent supervision, and an appropriate progression of the volume and intensity of training is required, but children and adolescents can and should learn advanced strength training exercises, should be encouraged to feel good about their performances, and most importantly: they should have fun.

The Current Position of the NSCA

It is the current position of the NSCA that:

  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program is relatively safe for youth.
  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can enhance the muscular strength and power of youth.
  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth.
  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth.
  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can increase a young athlete’ s resistance to sports-related injuries.
  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth.
  • A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence.

ACSM is in Agreement

Comments made by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also suggest that adding generic strength and resistance training to athletic practice should significantly reduce sports-related injuries in children, as kids more frequently engage in sports-related activities at an increasingly younger age.

Basically, when your kid enrolls in a sport, the coach or trainer SHOULD have them use resistance training exercises in addition to sport-specific training and skill-development, to better prepare them for the demands of competitive physical activity.

Resources:

Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association.

Strength training for children and adolescents.

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