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Benefits of Resistance Training in Children and Adolescents

October 17, 2013

Benefits of Resistance Training in Children and Adolescents

  1. Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP

Broadly endorsed 2014 U.K. Strength and Conditioning Association position statement on youth resistance training

  1. Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP

The WHO and other public health agencies recommend resistance training (RT) for youth. Nevertheless, strength levels in school children are decreasing. The U.K. Strength and Conditioning Association prepared a consensus statement after reviewing data on RT for youth (endorsed by the AAP and NCAA among others). Highlights are:

  • RT is conditioning whereby individuals work against resistive loads (including body weight, weight machines, free weights, elastic bands).

  • Evidence supports regular RT to reinforce positive health and fitness adaptations and sports performance enhancement.

  • Clinical evidence does not support concerns that RT might injure the developing skeleton, damage growth plates, or adversely affect linear growth. Rather, the mechanical stress from RT or high-strain eliciting sports (e.g., gymnastics or weightlifting) may be beneficial for bone formation and growth.

  • Children have lower risk than adults for RT-related injury but attention to postural alignment and technical competency is essential. Most injuries are preventable and occur when youth are unsupervised or supervised by unqualified individuals.

  • Studies show that incorporating RT into sports programs can reduce serious injuries in athletes (e.g., football, female soccer) when supervised by qualified coaches. Well-supervised, multifaceted RT programs for female athletes reduce abnormal biomechanics and injuries, especially at ages 14–18 years.

  • In prepubertal children, RT leads to strength gains through neural adaptation. The focus for children should be on gains in muscle strength, function, and control rather than in muscle size. Gains are not gender dependent.

  • At puberty and beyond, RT leads to additional gains in lean body mass and muscle size and are affected by gender.

  • Equipment should be sized appropriately. Optimal frequency is 2–3 times per week on nonconsecutive days.

  • RT is distinguished from the sport of weightlifting (e.g., snatch, clean, and jerk). Weightlifting with qualified supervision is acceptable for youth.

Comment

Read in its entirety, the consensus statement provides a compelling rationale for all youth to participate in resistance training as part of an overall physical activity program. For athletes, RT should be in place of, rather than in addition to, sports-specific training activities.

  • Disclosures for Alain Joffe, MD, MPH, FAAP at time of publication Editorial boards Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews; JAMA Pediatrics

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