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Resistance training for kids, is it a Yes or No?


There has been considerable debate regarding child and youth strength and conditioning practices around the globe, and I’ve even heard parents say, “It stunts children’s growth and causes injuries”. Although there is research showing significant gaps in relation to the child and youth resistance training position stand, there is no evidence to suggest that resistance training is a negative to their development, nor does it stunt growth or cause injuries under the correct Strength & Conditioning programming and supervision.


As far as injuries go, most injuries are related to overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and youth athletes (1). There is a compelling body of scientific evidence that supports frequent involvement in child and youth resistance training to be most beneficial to the overall holistic health and sports performance of children and youth, as long as it’s under the supervision of a trained Strength & Conditioning Coach (2), (3).


What are these holistic health and sport performance benefits?

The holistic health and sport performance benefits of resistance training for child and youth athletes are now well recognised as resistance training can;

· Enhance performance through increased muscular fitness and positively contribute to improvements in motor skill performance, speed, and power (4).

· Have a positive effect on the overall cognitive function, academic and on-task behaviours in school-aged youth (7).

· Reduce the risk of injury and assist in rehabilitation after injuries (4).

· Improve health benefits such as the enhancement of cardiovascular fitness and body composition (4).

· Improve long-term athletic development (8)

· Boost self-esteem and physical self-worth (5)


Although the benefits of resistance training are abundant in positivity, there is still a significant proportion of children and adolescents that are not meeting the current guidelines for muscle-strengthening prescriptions (6). Therefore, many strength and conditioning associations have weighed in on this debate and have now taken a stance at publishing their own set of guidelines.


From these guidelines, the Australian Strength & Conditioning Association (ASCA) has developed its own position stand on resistance training for children and youth utilising the research and guidelines to further develop classification levels as follows.

Level 1: 6-9 years of age

Level 2: 9-12 years of age

Level 3: 12-15 years of age

Level 4: 15-18 years of age

The overlap in age between the 4 levels (i.e., a 9-year-old may be in Level 1 or Level 2) reflects the fact that different children will mature at different rates and thus may well progress at various times. Further, in addition to chronological age, the progression between levels is also muscular function dependent (8)


Within these levels, the S&C Coach should program to include:

ASCA Position stand

• Guidelines and implementation

• Who is responsible for the program?

• Importance of progression

• The importance of physical and skeletal maturity and correct movement patterns


Outlining the progression testing protocol (age and function-related)

• How the goal of the program is to progressively develop the physical capacities of the athlete in line with the age and function of all their physical pillars

• How the testing protocol supports athlete development and minimises injuries


Key aspects of the strength program design

• How these key aspects support the S & C Coach/s

• How these key aspects support the athlete

With these guidelines and classification levels, it now allows Strength & Conditioning Coaches to follow key aspects to develop youth and adolescent resistance programs, minimising injury, overtraining, and burnout, which are real possibilities if children and youth athletes are not training under a qualified Strength & Conditioning Coach.



For more details information on the ASCA Position Stand, please refer to the link below;

https://www.strengthandconditioning.org/images/resources/coach-resources/resistance-training-for-children-and-youth-asca-position-stand.pdf


References


1. Brenner, J. S. (2007). Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. Pediatrics, 119(6), 1242-1245.


2. Lloyd, R., Faigenbaum, A., Stone3, M., Oliver, J., Jeffreys, I., Moody, J., Brewer, C., Pierce, k., McCambridge, T., Howard, R., Herrington, L., Hainline, B., Micheli, L., Jaques, R., Kraemer, W., McBride, M., Best, T., Chu, D., Alvar, B., Mye, G. (2014). Position statement on youth resistance training: The 2014 International Consensus. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(7), 498-505.


3. Legerlotz, K., Marzilger, R., Bohm, S., & Arampatzis, A. (2016). Physiological adaptations following resistance training in youth athletes: A narrative review. Paediatric Exercise Science, 28(4), 501-520.


4. Stricker PR, Faigenbaum AD, McCambridge TM, Labella CR, Brooks MA, Canty G, et al. Resistance training for children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2020;145(6): e20201011.


5. Smith J, Eather N, Morgan PJ, Plotnikoff RC, Faigenbaum AD, Lubans DR. The health benefits of muscular fitness for children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2014;44(9):1209–23.


6. Bennie JA, Faulkner G, Smith JJ. The epidemiology of muscle− strengthening activity among adolescents from 28 European countries. Scandinavian J Public Health. 2022;50(2):295–302


7. Robinson, K., Riley, N., Owen, K. et al. Effects of Resistance Training on Academic Outcomes in School-Aged Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-023-01881-6


8. Australia Strength and Conditioning Association. Resistance Training for Children and Youth: A Position Stand from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA). 2007




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