What do the professionals and governing bodies say on this subject?
Here is a summary and some excerpts from the UKSCA (United Kingdom Strength & Conditioning Association) Position Statement on Youth Resistance Training;
Summary: A compelling body of scientific evidence supports participation in well-designed youth resistance training programmes that are supervised and instructed by qualified professionals. The current manuscript has added to previous position statements from medical and fitness organisations, and has clearly outlined the performance, health, and injury reducing benefits associated with this training mode for school age youth. In summarising this manuscript, it is the position of the UKSCA that:
- The use of resistance training by children and adolescents is supported on the proviso that qualified professionals supervise training programmes that are consistent with the needs, goals, and abilities of younger populations.
- Specifically, the use of weightlifting as a resistance training mode by children and adolescents is supported, providing appropriate equipment and logical progressions are prescribed and implemented by suitably qualified personnel.
- Parents, teachers and coaches, should recognise the potential health-related benefits of resistance exercise, because youths who do not participate in activities that enhance muscle strength and movement skills, may be at increased risk for negative health outcomes later in life.
- Well-designed resistance training programmes are not only safe for young athletes but may also reduce sports-related injuries.
- An appropriately designed resistance training programme can elicit noticeable improvements in motor skills, and consequently may positively enhance sports performance.
- A properly designed resistance training programme can improve and maintain psychological health and wellbeing.
- Resistance training prescription for children and adolescents should be age-related and not age determined. Consequently, prescription should be based according to biological status, training age, motor skill competency, technical proficiency, existing strength levels, and psycho-social maturity.
- Regardless of resistance training mode, training volume and intensity should never be increased at the expense of technical competency.
Some Excerpts from the full statement;
- Despite outdated misperceptions that resistance training was unsafe or inappropriate for youth, there is now a compelling body of scientific evidence that supports its use by children and adolescents for a wide range of performance, health, and injury reducing benefits.
- Research has indicated that various forms of resistance training can elicit significant performance improvements in muscular strength, power production, running velocity, change-of-direction speed, and general motor performance, in youth.
- Importantly, it has also been suggested that regular participation in an appropriately designed exercise programme, which includes resistance training, can enhance bone mineral density and reduce sports-related injury risk in young athletes.
- Factors inherently responsible for increases in strength during childhood appear to be related to the development of the central nervous system. Specifically, improvements in motor unit recruitment, firing frequency, synchronisation, and neural myelination are all deemed to enhance neuromuscular performance.
- The World Health Organisation now recognises physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality for non-communicable diseases, and supports participation in a variety of physical activities including those that strengthen muscle and bone.
- Resistance training can offer unique health benefits to children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised. Regular participation in a youth resistance training programme can have a favourable influence on musculoskeletal health, body composition, and cardiovascular risk factors.
- From a public health perspective, it is noteworthy that traditional fears and misinformed concerns that resistance training would damage the developing skeleton, have been replaced by reports indicating that childhood may be the opportune time to build bone mass and enhance bone structure by participating in weight-bearing physical activities.
- Fears that resistance training would injure the growth-plates of youths are not supported by scientific reports, which indicate that the mechanical stress placed on the developing growth plates from resistance exercise, or high strain eliciting sports such as weightlifting, are actually beneficial for bone formation and growth.
- Furthermore, no scientific evidence indicates that resistance training will have an adverse effect on linear growth during childhood or adolescence, or reduce eventual height in adulthood.
- While the treatment of overweight and obese youth is complex, participation in a multi-faceted treatment programme, including resistance training, may provide a gateway for this population to improve muscle strength, enhance motor coordination and gain confidence in their perceived abilities to be physically active.
- The available evidence indicates that resistance training has the potential to offer observable health value to sedentary youth and young athletes, and this type of training can be prescribed to meet the needs of all children and adolescents, regardless of body size or physical ability.
- preparatory resistance training programmes that are appropriately designed and sensibly progressed for youth may help to reduce the likelihood of injuries in these populations. Lehnhard and colleagues were able to significantly reduce injury rates with the addition of a resistance training regimen to a male soccer team.
- Cahill and Griffith incorporated resistance training into their preseason conditioning for adolescent football teams and reported a reduction in non-serious knee injuries, as well as knee injuries that required surgery, over four competitive seasons.
- Resistance training that is focused to address the risk factors associated with youth sport injuries (e.g. low fitness level, muscle imbalances and errors in training) has the potential to reduce overuse injuries by up to 50%. For example, several investigations indicate that reduced relative hamstring strength is related to both hamstring strains and ACL injury.
- It appears that multi-faceted programmes that increase muscle strength, enhance movement mechanics, and improve functional abilities appear to be the most effective strategy for reducing sports-related injuries in young athletes.
- Of concern, research has suggested that physical activity levels in youth peak at approximately 6 years of age, and consistently decline throughout childhood and into youth. Consequently, the supporting structures of some young athletes may be ill prepared to handle the demands of weekly sports practice sessions and weekend competitions. Cumulatively, these findings indicate that young athletes should participate regularly in multi-faceted resistance training programmes prior to sports seasons to reduce their risk of sports related injury.
- Musculoskeletal growth during puberty, in the absence of corresponding neuromuscular adaptation, may facilitate the development of abnormal joint mechanics and injury risk factors in young girls. These intrinsic risk factors, if not addressed at the proper time, may continue through adolescence and into maturity, thus predisposing female athletes to increased risk of injuries.
Here are some further UKSCA statements regarding aspects of youth S&C;
Promoting Integrative Youth Physical Development: Internationally, strength and conditioning professionals are faced with the paradox of increased sports participation, decreased levels of physical activity, and increased rates of obesity. To combat these current disturbing trends among our youth that may lead to even greater health risks and negative health outcomes into adulthood, we propose an integrated youth physical development model that includes; developmentally appropriate instruction for all youth in health-related and skill-related fitness concepts, general and specific activities that develop motor skill competence, and attention to success-based participation in physical activity, strength and conditioning and sports.
High Intensity Training In Young Athletes: Sports coaches working with children comment that children and adolescents often experience less fatigue during short-burst activities compared to adults. It is our experience both in the field and in a laboratory setting that children are often able to repeat high intensity exercises quicker than adults and do not necessarily exhibit similar fatigue symptoms. Over the last decade, a number of studies have shown that during high intensity exercise (defined as the intensity above the maximum speed or power output achieved in the last minute of an incremental aerobic fitness test), the decrement in peak performance is lower in children than in adults. Hebestreit et al. and Beneke et al. indicated that the percent decline in power during a 30 s all-out cycle sprint (Wingate test) was lower in young boys compared to men. These observations have also been observed using strength tests from a 30 s isometric maximal contraction of elbow flexors (biceps brachii). The authors showed that peak force declined significantly greater in adults than in children. On the basis of these and other results, a tenable proposition is that children recover more quickly than adults following high intensity exercise and that they are able to repeat these maximal intensity exercises with short recovery intervals more consistently. These observations are important as previously the focus on training of children was related more towards aerobic training, mostly of a continuous, steady state type of exercise.
This information is taken directly from the UKSCA site and media.