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Youth Weight Training

Carol Mack, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, PN-1

February 1, 2024

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Question

What are the considerations and benefits associated with weight training in children and adolescents, and what is an appropriate age for them to start such training?

Answer

Weight training in children and adolescents can be safe and beneficial when delivered, programmed, and monitored by qualified professionals. This form of training has been associated with improved biomechanics, increased muscle strength, and enhanced overall function. Well-rounded strength and conditioning programs, encompassing elements like resistance training, motor skill and balance training, speed and agility training, along with adequate rest, can reduce the likelihood of injuries by up to 50%. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, NSCA, and UKSCA all advocate for the positive effects of appropriately conducted weight training.

Children and adolescents engaging in weight training may experience improvements in motor skills, muscle strength, power, running speed, agility, and endurance. However, it's essential to consider the growth and maturation factors, particularly during the adolescent growth spurt when the risk of lower limb injuries peaks. Disproportionate growth rates among structural tissues, coupled with marked increases in body mass, height, and center of mass, can lead to excessive loading on the musculoskeletal system. The "window of opportunity" for developing motor skills before puberty underscores the importance of initiating weight training during pre- and early-pubertal stages, as evidenced by studies showing significantly greater gains in motor skills in this age group compared to adolescents. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) emphasizes emotional maturity, competence in balance and postural control as prerequisites for children engaging in weight training, aligning with the consensus that age alone is not the sole determinant for readiness.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Youth Weight Training by Carol Mack, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, PN-1


carol mack

Carol Mack, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, PN-1

Carol Ferkovic Mack, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, is the owner of CLE Sports PT & Performance in Cleveland, Ohio. Carol graduated from Duquesne University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program in 2006 after playing four years of varsity soccer. She is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Physical Therapy specializing in end-stage rehabilitation of soccer athletes, female athletes, and runners. Carol is also a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. She serves as Sports Medicine and Performance Coordinator for Beaumont School Athletics, Physical Therapist for the United States Tennis Association (USTA), and Adjunct Faculty at John Carroll University. Carol is also the Chair of Educational Programming for the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy. 


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