Strength Training for Youth Athletes – Part 1: When should my child start Strength Training?

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  5. Strength Training for Youth Athletes – Part 1: When should my child start Strength Training?

Next time you go to watch your child play sport, pick out two or three of the best players in that match and watch them. Watch how they move; watch how they synchronize and transfer their movements from one action to another. Chances are that those players that you have been watching are the strongest (relative to their bodyweight) and most coordinated of those who are out there playing.

Children and young adolescents can benefit from being stronger. It’s a proven fact that has been discussed in numerous studies, papers and articles, and therefore, there is a necessity for youths to engage in some type of strength training from as early as possible.

You can either agree or disagree with that statement, depending on your own beliefs or experiences, but the proof is in the pudding.

So, what benefits can strength training have on children and young adolescents:

  • Increasing muscle mass and endurance
  • Improving strength and density of bones
  • Promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Decreasing frequency and severity of injuries
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence levels

The thought behind starting strength training at an early age originates from the physiological adaptations that take place in pre-pubescent youths. By integrating an added stimulus (such as strength training) into an environment that is already naturally growing, adaptations that would naturally occur over time, will do so with greater effect, this includes the maturation of the central nervous system, and increased motor unit activation.

When to start incorporating strength training

Deciding when to start incorporating strength training for your child is an important decision, therefore it’s imperative to first understand the development of your child. Factor in both biological age and maturation age when considering any form of physical training, but equally due to the potential risks involved with improper loading and poor technique, strength training should always be first introduced in a controlled environment.

Various resources have recommended that children as young as two years old can begin organised training, focused on learning fundamental and simple motor skills, in order to begin building the motor learning pathways that are required for more complex movement as they get older.

Exposure to a variety of training

As your child gets older, its important to expose them to as many different sports and activities as possible in order to develop their skills further and begin to have them become aware of how their bodies move.

Strength training in its simplest and most basic form can be used to supplement the development and movement your child is experiencing through the range of sports and activities they undertake – however it is recommended that you hold off from incorporating this kind of training until your child is at least 5-7 years old due to both structural deficiencies and the motor learning ability of those younger.

Considerations

As with any training, it is important to be aware of the risks and consequences of undertaking unsuitable training methods, and you must be especially careful when dealing with the youth population.

Over the coming weeks, we will be covering appropriate training methods and progressions for youths, so stay tuned for future blog posts on this topic and please reach out if you have specific questions or concerns.

This post is part 1 of a 5-part series on Strength Training for Youths.

The author of this blog

This post was written by Precision Athletica Strength & Conditioning coach, Jackson Privett. If you would like more information or to book a session with Jackson, please call us on 02 9764 5787, or you can email Jackson directly: jackson.p@precisionathletica.com.au

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