Training & Conditioning for Young Athletes
I am a firm
believer in Strength Training & Conditioning for the Young Athlete, among other
things it can help to reduce the occurrence of injury, improve posture and
general body strength, which in turn will improve running economy, and aid
technique in your chosen event.
My intention is to
produce a series of articles in which I will try to cover the various aspects
and types of Strength training pertinent to coaching young athletes and try to
allay the myths and fears that surround “Weight Training” and its place in the
athletes continuing development.
below suggest that young athletes
benefit from a properly designed and supervised programme.
by the National Strength & Conditioning Association, the American Orthopedic
Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that
CHILDREN can benefit from participation in a properly prescribed and supervised
resistance training program.”
STRENGTH TRAINING FOR YOUNG ATHLETES
PhD, CSCS, NSCA-CPT and Keith Cinea, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Strength and Conditioning Association Education Department
Does strength training damage growth plates in bones?
Most parents and coaches are
hesitant to begin strength training with young athletes for fear of damaging the
bones and possibly stunting growth. Almost everyone has heard a story of some
child experiencing stunted growth after damaging a bone’s growth plate from
lifting weights. This story could be considered an “urban legend” – a story that
everyone has heard, but no one knows if it is in fact true.
Before going any
further, let’s define the term growth plate.
In children, all bone growth
occurs at a region of cartilage near the ends of the bone. This region is weaker
than ‘mature bone’ and may be at a greater risk for injury. If the growth plate
is damaged there is a chance that growth in the bone will be stunted.
The fact is that
no growth plate fractures have been documented in athletes who engage in a
resistance training program that includes “an appropriately prescribed
training regimen and competent instruction.” The risk of injury to
the growth plates can be further minimized by not allowing the athletes to lift
weight over their heads or perform maximum effort lifts (i.e. performing one
repetition lifting as much weight as they can). A general rule of thumb when
working with younger athletes is to have them only exercise with weights that
they can lift six times or more. Growth plate injuries should be taken
seriously because they can happen. However, with proper care, the risk can be
#2: Do overuse injuries occur with strength training?
The potential for repetitive
use injuries to the soft tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments) of the body is
another concern for young athletes entering a strength training program. These
types of injuries do occur. The majority (40-70 percent) of strength training
related soft-tissue injuries are muscles strains with the lower back being the
most frequently injured area. Again, these types of injuries can be minimized by
following a few simple guidelines:
- Teach the athletes proper
technique for each exercise that is performed.
- Supervise every strength
- Do not have the athletes
train with maximal or near-maximal loads.
- Avoid using resistive
devices that are supposed to improve vertical jump height. These may
contribute to injury of the lower back.
Some of the known benefits are listed below.
Improved muscular strength and power
Little or no change in muscle size in young children
Improved local muscular endurance
Positive influence on body composition
Improved strength balance around joints
Improved total body strength
Prevention of injuries in sports
Positive influence on sports performance
Improved self-image and self-confidence.
Improved bone strength/ bone density.
Both the NSCA and the
American Academy of Pediatrics state that youth strength training can be safe
and effective if:
who is skilled in programme design & supervises
every strength training session.
technique is taught and required.
criteria would be to identify a needs analysis of the athlete and his / her
event and using a biological maturation rather than a chronological age to
decide on the type of strength /resistance programme required. In younger
athletes this may consist of a simple body weight circuit session to a complex
weights/plyometrics session in a mature competitor.
Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) defines youth as a child who has
not yet reached, or is going through, physical maturity. Recognize that not all
children progress through puberty at the same time or at the same rate. Three
athletes of the same chronological age (i.e. all are 12 years old) can differ by
± two years in biological age (differences with respect to maturity). Even
though you have three twelve year olds, maturity wise they can range in age from
training is synonymous with the term ‘resistance training’ and is defined as a
specialized form of conditioning that is used to increase one’s ability to
produce or resist force. Strength training uses the principle of progressive
overload to force the body (muscles, bones, tendons, etc.) to adapt in order to
be able to produce and/ or resist larger forces. Strength training is not power
lifting nor is it bodybuilding or trying to lift the most weight you can.
Strength training is a tool that can augment sport performance through improved
strength and motor control.
In the following articles
I hope to give an insight to some of the different methods and types of
strength training & conditioning.
in mind we have to get away from the “One Size Fits All” attitude when designing
a programme that is specific to a group of athletes. Our first priority at all
times must be the health, safety and continuing development of the athlete.
Graham Smith B.A.F. Senior Coach
Level 4 Performance Coach
Level 4 Strength & Conditioning Coach
other articles on coaching can be found by following