It's time for us to look at resistance training for youth athletes a little differently. For the most part, your athlete is already doing resistance training, here's how....
When we enter our kids into a sport, they are being taught a new skill. That skill, whatever that maybe, swinging a bat, throwing or kicking a ball, requires muscles and neurological patterns to complete these task.
Along with growth, these muscle become stronger and adapt to the new stimulus of skill development. However, there is still a question or doubt when should your youth athlete begin strength training. The answer is fairly simple and forward, they can begin a scaled version of a strength training program around the same time they begin their skill sport.
"Kids and teens who are ready to participate in organized sports or other activities such as baseball, soccer, or gymnastics usually can safely start strength training. Kids as young as 7 or 8 years old can safely do strength training if they have good balance and control of their body, follow instructions, and can do the exercises with good form.
A child's strength-training program shouldn't be a scaled-down version of an adult's weight training regimen. Kids who strength train should learn proper technique and know how to use the equipment safely.
Trainers who work at schools, gyms, and in weight rooms know about strength training. But look for someone who is a certified strength-training expert and who has experience working with kids and teens." - Nemours Children's Hospital
This leads into our experience with working with i9 Sports ,a youth organization with athletes as young as 3-4 year old's has been tremendous and accepted. Implementing fun games, bodyweight activities and sprint relays along with a dynamic warm up before they play their sport has been well received by players and parents, and best part is this is all accomplished within 15-18 minutes.
It's important to note that for the best athletic development, we suggest playing multiple sports each year, not in the same season. This should continue on until the athlete is roughly 13-14 years of age, and this is when they can decide which skill they would like to develop more in. During this period of time, the athletes training is is older than most freshman in high school.
Training age v biological age is also important to understand. We have listed a resource on our education page about Long Term Athletic Development. Read more here.
Resistance Training for youth is not only effective and safe, it must be consistent. (2)"Appropriately supervised programs emphasizing strengthening of the core (focusing on the trunk muscles, eg, the abdominal, low back, and gluteal muscles) are also appropriate for children and theoretically benefit sports-specific skill acquisition and postural control. Unfortunately, gains in strength, muscle size, or power are lost ∼6 weeks after resistance training is discontinued."- American Academy of Pediatrics
This also aligns with a preventive message that we consistently place out to our sports partners, parents and athletes. Being PROAVTIVE is a form of Injury Prevention, and you are less likely to injury yourself when you have adequate and educated trainers available.(3)
"Injury rates in settings with strict supervision and proper technique are lower than those that occur in other sports or general recess play at school."
I want to go back to growth and make a few points. (4)Adolescences have seen an increase in injuries from overuse to growth plate fractures accounting for over 25% of all youth injuries. Youth bones are typically weaker than their ligaments and tendons, and the growth plate is the weakest link. I'd like to point out that with a proper strength training program, this helps reduce the risk of injury to bones and ligaments.
(5)"To stimulate the osteogenic effects for bone mass accretion, bone tissues must be exposed to mechanical load exceeding those experienced during daily living activities. Of the several exercise training programs, resistance exercise (RE) is known to be highly beneficial for the preservation of bone and muscle mass.
In other words, there are several factors in keeping your athlete healthy.
Have them play and develop in multiple sports year round
Begin a Strength Training regimen that encompasses the following;
UNPLANNED change of Direction games
Simple Plyometrics including sprints and jumps
Body weight Core Development. (No sense in doing push ups when they can't support the movement)
Carries and Crawls
3. 1-2 sets of each exercise and 10-15 repetitions with at least :30 of rest.
We have created a free template of general exercises for parents on our mobile platform. To receive these exercises and more click here.