How young is ‘too young’ to start training?: Part 1
The age at which it is appropriate for youth athletes (people under the age of 18) to participate in strength and conditioning training has long been a debated topic. The purpose of this article is to show that, conducted in the right environment, youth athlete strength and conditioning is perfectly safe and reduces sports-related injuries. So what are the facts?
Benefits of Resistance Training
It seems that for many parents the prevailing view is that youths should not undertake resistance training as doing so may harm their physical development. Yet it’s unlikely that many of these same parents would think twice about letting their son or daughter play on a climbing frame (such as monkey bars, pulling themselves up, or jumping off onto the ground) in the local park even though this is still resistance based, just with the child’s bodyweight as the resistance.
Support of Strength and Conditioning National Bodies
In recent years, many national strength and conditioning bodies have issued updated position statements on the topic of youth strength and conditioning . More and more research is concluding that it is perfectly safe for youths to undertake strength and conditioning as long as it is appropriately prescribed and supervised .
It is not the undertaking of strength and conditioning training that is in itself dangerous; rather, it is the fact that youth athletes, left unsupervised, adopt poor training modalities with unsafe technique and dangerous loads, leading to injuries. It is therefore imperative that this training is part of an appropriately structured training programme conducted in a safe environment .
Reduced Injury Risk of Resistance Training
Resistance training may actually be safer for youth athletes than playing their respective sports. As the table below shows, the injury risk of resistance training is actually lower than in many commonly played sports .
|Sport||Injury Risk (% of 1576 injuries during study)|
Not only may resistance training be safer to undertake than sports, it can also reduce the risk of injury in these sports. Less injuries means more time spent playing different sports throughout the year resulting in increased motor skill development and the benefits associated with making new friends and integrating into team environments.
Additionally, if we look beyond the reduced injury risk in sports at this age if a youth were to engage in resistance training it is also possible to make a link between youth resistance training and a reduced risk of developing some chronic diseases in later life .
In conclusion, in part 1 of this three part article series, we have shown how youth resistance training is not in any way dangerous as long it’s conducted in a safe and controlled environment, under the watchful eye of qualified personnel. In fact, engaging in resistance training actually reduces the risk of sports-related injuries. In the second part of this series of articles we will take a closer look at what youth strength and conditioning involves and dispel the idea that it is all about big lifting and heavy weights.
References R. Lloyd, D. Faigenbaum et al, ‘UKSCA Position Statement: Youth Resistance Training’, The Journal of the UK Strength and Conditioning Association, (2012) 26, pp. 26-39.  D. Faigenbaum, W.J. Kraemer et al, ‘Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From The National Strength and Conditioning Association’, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23 (Supplement 5), pp. 60-79.  R. Lloyd and J. Oliver, ‘Developing Younger Athletes’, in D. Joyce & D. Lewindon (eds.) High-Performance Training for Sports (Human Kinetics, 2014), pp. 15-28.  B. Zaricznyj, L. Shattuck et al, ‘Sports-related injuries in school-aged children’, The American Journal of Sports Medicine 8 (1980), pp. 318–324.