Strength Training with Children

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, proper resistance training can enhance strength without affiliated muscle hypertrophy. Gains in strength in children can be attributed to neuromuscular learning, in which exercise increases the number of motor neurons that will fire when muscles are trained properly. The main argument against strength training for children is the possibility of growth plate fractures due to sheer force. The only website that I could locate any negative in this area was on hockeyusa. It seemed to me that hockeyusa would rather have a child playing hockey than lifting weights. For me the article seemed a little biased.

Research in a 2007 study by Avery D. Faigenbaum, EdD with the College of New Jersey Department of health and Exercise Science states resistance training for children can be a safe and effective form of exercise. He stresses the importance of appropriate training and supervision. A major benefit he states is resistance training could increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports related injuries.

Dr. Linda Kaufman and Dr. DL Schilling at the Cleveland Clinic researched the use of resistance training on a child with poor body awareness. This April 2007 study involved a five year old child. According to the study the child participated in a twelve week strength training program. At the end of the twelve week program improvements were noted in muscle strength and gross motor function. Their research indicated that muscles provide information about joint position. Other evidence suggests that muscle strength gains in children are a neuromuscular learning and neural adaptations. This study reaffirms the need for strength training in adolescents.

A 2008 report by Dr Chezhiyan Shanmugam and Dr Nicola Maffulli with Keele University School of Medicine, Stoke-on-Trent, UK state that most injuries caused in children’s sports are minor and self-limiting. Trainers must take into account the youth’s physical and psychological immaturity, so that growing athletes can adjust to the changes in their bodies.

Research documented in December 2003 by The Ribstein Center for Sport Medicine Sciences and Research, Wingate Institute, Netanya, Israel is very much in line with what ISSA states. Increases in strength following resistance training in youth are believed to be due to neural adaptations and only minimally to muscle hypertrophy. Their research indicates that resistance training in youth results in increased serum IGF-I and that there is no detrimental effect on linear growth.

An August 2005 the Department of Pediatrics, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong wrote a research paper on effects of strength training on body composition in children who are obese. This study had Eight-Two Hong Kong children who were obese complete a six week training program. This program consisted of three resistance training sessions a week. At the end of the six weeks most of the children wanted to continue the training sessions. This study concluded that children in an exercise program with emphasis on strength training results in improved lean body mass and bone mineral accrual.

Every research article I read suggested the importance of supervised strength training for young people. Strength training can be very safe and effective in youth if the individual is properly instructed and is taught proper form and technique. The goal of resistance training in youth should be to improve strength and performance. Muscle hypertrophy should never be advocated with younger trainees.


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