Should Youth Athletes Weight Train?

When should a youth athlete begin weight training?

Some of us, including myself, grew up thinking that if we weight trained it would stunt our growth. I’m not sure where the origins of this wives tale began or how it started. Hopefully after reading this post your concerns and worries are put to rest.

According to the Pediatric Association of America, “strength training should be an integral part of a Youth Athletes long term development.”

Youth sports is turning into a highly competitive field that have the athlete training and playing virtually year round. It is now widely accepted that early sport specialization can lead to increased injury risk. By in large what builds a well-rounded athlete is trying different sports and playing games that challenge a child’s cognitive skills.

Take for example a study out of the Czech Republic, where the school system found an increased rate of falling injuries in their elementary and middle school students. To stop these falling injuries, the schools hired Judo Instructors. Jude, for those of you not familiar with the Martial Arts, teaches throws and take downs sending your opponent to the ground. Essentially, the instructors taught the students how to fall. The conclusion? While the number of falls did not improve the number of injuries saw massive improvements dropping below 20%.

Long term Athletic development can be broken down into 4 different categories

  1. Early Adolescence: Focusing on fundamentals and skill development
  2. Late Adolescence: introducing sports specific drills and resistance training
  3. Teenage: Educating the athlete on how to train and tracking their workload
  4. Adult: Maintaining a play to train equilibrium

By in large most Youth Athletes don’t begin resistance training till the 9th grade. On average a child is 14 to 15 years of age by the time they begin the 9th grade. During childhood development research has shown 10-13 years of age to be an important time for skeletal muscle and bone marrow density beginning to accrue its tensile strength and resiliency. By these statistics the average 9th grade athlete has already lost 4 vital years of training.

It is not the purpose of this paper to say every child should be weight training. The benefits of exercise speak for themselves regarding childhood development. Some of these benefits include improved problem-solving skills, better communication skills, establishing healthy habits, better mood and well-being.

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