We are all familiar with the many benefits of strength training in an adult population, but when it comes to the health of our young athletes there are some commonly held, though misguided beliefs about the effectiveness and safety of strength training.
Concerned parents commonly ask if strength training is appropriate for their child and what is the best way for them to approach it.
Strength training has been shown to increase strength in young athletes by 30-50% over the duration of a well designed 8-12 week program.
Young athletes experience the same performance and health benefits from increased muscular strength and endurance that we see in the adult population such as; improved athletic performance, reduced risk of sporting injury and increased bone density.
The vast majority of strength training injuries in young athletes can be attributed to a lack of adherence to an appropriately designed and supervised program.
There is no strict guideline as to what age is appropriate to start strength training, however it is important that a child has the cognitive and emotional maturity to follow instruction and possesses appropriate balance and spatial awareness.
For most children this occurs at around the age of 8 though can vary considerably.
Top tips for strength training for young athletes:
- Seek appropriate instruction and supervision from a qualified coach, athletic trainer or sports medicine professional.
- Warm up and cool down for 5-10 minutes pre and post-workout to reduce injury risk and aide recovery.
- Focus training on correct technique and skill acquisition. This requires sub-maximal weights that can be controlled safely. Exercises that utilise body weight and small free weights may be most appropriate.
- Do some sport specific exercises. That is, try to do some exercises that mimic the key movements and actions of the sport you play. For example, if you play a sport that involves jumping, then doing some exercises that mimic jumping like jump squats or high step ups for example.
- Rest between workouts to allow time for recovery and adaptation. 2-3 strength sessions per week on non-consecutive days is a good guideline.
- Keep the program fun and varied to encourage ongoing participation and maximise fitness improvements.
If you have any further questions, we recommend booking an appointment with a Physiotherapist who can design a sport-specific program for your child.
You can contact our clinics or book online by visiting our website.
Tom Peters, myPhysioSA & North Adelaide Football Club Sports Physiotherapist