The safety and effectiveness of children participating in strength training has previously been a source of great debate. However, despite previous misconceptions there is now evidence supporting strength training by pre-adolescent and adolescent children and its acceptance by medical and fitness organizations is largely universal. Not only is a well-designed resistance training program safe for kids, it can also provide tremendous health, wellness, and sports performance benefits. Let’s look at some of the myths surrounding strength training and how Nationwide Children’s Hospital can help your child get started with what can become a lifelong activity.
Concerns about having kids perform strength training routines have typically revolved around three misconceptions. Let’s review these myths:
Any type of exercise involving moderate to heavy loads is unsafe and inappropriate for children. In comparison to other sports and activities in which kids participate, appropriately supervised and prescribed resistance training programs are safe. The forces placed on the joints of young athletes during sport participation may be far greater than those generated in strength training programs. Research has shown that injury rates from age-appropriate resistance training programs are actually lower than those seen in athletics and recreational activities.
Strength training can damage developing growth plates and possibly stunt a child’s growth.There is no evidence to suggest that strength training negatively impacts growth and development during childhood. If age-specific guidelines are adhered to, weight-bearing physical activity (including strength training) can positively influence growth. Proper resistance training technique makes the risk of an epiphyseal (growth) plate fracture minimal.
Kids won’t benefit from strength training because they lack the hormones to support improvement in muscular strength. We now know that muscular strength and power can be significantly enhanced when children are exposed to a variety of resistance training. For pre-adolescents, increased strength is generally due to neurological factors and improvements in the coordination of muscle groups. As children enter puberty, their hormonal environment markedly changes and their ability to gain muscle mass greatly increases. Strength training may also lead to a reduced risk for injuries in sports, improved body composition and cardiovascular risk profile, as well as improved motor skills and sports performance.
Does Nationwide Children’s offer a training program?
To minimize risk and maximize the results of a strength training program, Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine now offers Sports Performance training. The staff of certified strength and conditioning specialists will help your child develop a foundation of sound technique. Additionally, our sports performance program can help competitive athletes stay healthy by incorporating speed work, power training, and injury prevention techniques.
Sports Performance Program FAQs: What age can my child begin to train?
By the time a child reaches middle school, they are probably mature enough to begin a structured training regimen.
Is the sports performance program appropriate for my child returning to sports following an injury?
Our sports performance program is a great way to transition back to competitive play following an injury. Ask your physical therapist for information about the program when function has returned to normal.
What kind of training do you offer?
Individual, partner, and small group training is available so individual goals can be addressed.
How do I get more information or register my child?
Call 614-355-6098, email SportsPerformance@nationwidechildrens.org, visit us on the web, or listen to some of our sports med team on PediaCast. Whether the goal is injury prevention, performance enhancement through sport-specific training, or just improving general health, our Sports Performance program can help!
Jeff Sydes, CSCS is the lead sports performance specialist for Nationwide Children's Hospital Sports Medicine Program. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
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