Strength Training in Young Athletes
By: Daniel Johnson, PT, Director of Rehabilitation Services
We are often asked if younger athletes should be encouraged to participate in strength training programs. Strength training programs are recommended for improvement in sports performance, injury rehabilitation and prevention, as well as having general health benefits. Strength training should be instituted in childhood as a preventative measure as well as enhancing physical fitness and helping our younger athletes prepare for the physical demands of sports participation.
Such programs may be safely instituted if a child is ready for sports participation in some type of sports activity. This may be as young as seven or eight years old. The child should be fit enough to handle a strength training program, and care should be taken to assure that there are no pre-existing conditions that could increase the likelihood of injury. It’s important to remember that young children should not start a strength training program on their own but rather seek guidance from a qualified professional. Keys to preventing problems related to strength training include close supervision, age-related instructions, and a safe environment. Other keys include:
- Focus on proper technique
- Start each session with an appropriate warm up activity
- Start with one light set of ten to twelve repetitions
- Progressing to two to three sets of ten to twelve repetitions
- Gradual increase in the amount of resistance
- Avoidance of “maxing out” with one repetition/avoidance of competition with peers
- Training two to three times per week on non-consecutive days
- Utilizing workout logs
Regular participation in a strength training program has the potential to benefit our young athletes in many ways as noted above, but these programs must be appropriately designed, supervised, and taught to prevent injury from occurring.
References:American Academy of Pediatrics, National Strength & Conditioning Association, American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine