Youth strength training is a topic that has been discussed since what feels like the beginning of time. This is a topic of interest for many researchers, clinicians, coaches and parents.
The questions that come to mind when thinking about this topic are:
- When to start?
- How much is enough?
- How often?
- Will it stunt growth?
- What is safe or unsafe?
These are the questions that we will address in this article.
Kids are not “miniature adults”, so we need to stop treating them like they are.
Here’s a few terms to understand, before we move on:
- Prepubescent– before puberty (approximately 11-13 years old).
- Adolescent– beginning of puberty to end of puberty (approximately 18 years old).
- Children– 2 years old to the beginning of puberty.
- Youth- period between childhood and adulthood.
When to Start?
Personally, I think this largely depends on the maturity of the athlete. If the athlete is mature enough to follow directions and practice proper technique, then they could be ready. Research supports that the Prepubescent age is a great time to begin.
How Much is Enough?
Everybody should start off with bodyweight training. We can begin to gradually add weight after the athlete has demonstrated proper mechanics and control throughout bodyweight exercises.
Remember, do you want your child to be the best player on the 10U team or the best on the 18U team competing for college scholarships? We’re in this for the long haul.
Once or twice a week for 30-45 minutes is plenty. After the athlete has been training consistently for a few months, then we can begin thinking about adding another training day each week.
Less is more and more is less, remember that!
Will it Stunt Growth?
NO. The scientific research supports time and time again that youth strength training will NOT stunt growth.
However, please make sure that your son/daughter is being taught by a qualified professional. There are lots of so called “trainers” out there who claim to “know their stuff”, when they actually know nothing. Do your research and find someone trustworthy and qualified.
What is Safe or Unsafe?
At this age we need to remember that the kids should be having fun and enjoying themselves while training. There should be more games, races and other fun activities. If we’re doing these types of activities, then almost everything would be considered “safe”.
Some “Unsafe” activities that I would avoid are: Intensive plyometrics (I have a separate article on this topic), very heavy axial loading, depth jumps from a high altitude, and most importantly, activities that their bodies ARE NOT ready for.
During training, everything is relative and depends on the person. Not everyone learns at the same speed and is ready to start at the same age.