Adolescent Training: Should Kids Be Weightlifting?
Introduction: In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding weightlifting and strength training for adolescents. Parents, coaches, and healthcare professionals are concerned about the potential risks and benefits associated with introducing weightlifting at a young age. In this blog post, we will explore the topic of adolescent weightlifting, examining the research and expert opinions to provide a comprehensive understanding of whether kids should engage in weightlifting as part of their training regimen.
Understanding Adolescent Strength Training: Strength training involves activities that increase muscle strength, power, and endurance. It typically involves the use of resistance, such as weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises. While weightlifting is a specific form of strength training that involves using barbells or dumbbells, the term “weightlifting” is often used more broadly to encompass various forms of resistance training.
Risks and Benefits:
- Risks: Concerns have been raised about potential injuries, growth plate damage, and stunted growth associated with weightlifting in adolescents. Growth plates are areas of developing cartilage located near the ends of long bones. It is believed that excessive stress on these growth plates could lead to injuries and potentially interfere with normal growth. However, research suggests that when performed with proper technique, under qualified supervision, and appropriate progression, weightlifting is relatively safe for adolescents.
- Benefits: Contrary to popular belief, weightlifting can offer several benefits for adolescents. It can contribute to overall strength and physical fitness, enhance bone density, improve athletic performance, and promote healthy body composition. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of weightlifting on pre- and early-pubertal children. The findings indicated significant improvements in muscle strength and power, without any adverse effects on growth or injury rates. (Reference: Lloyd et al., 2014)
Expert Opinions: Many leading organizations and experts have provided guidelines and recommendations regarding adolescent strength training:
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): The AAP suggests that children and adolescents can participate in appropriately designed and supervised strength training programs. They emphasize the importance of proper technique, appropriate progression, and qualified supervision to minimize the risk of injury.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA): The NSCA acknowledges that weightlifting and resistance training can be safe and effective for adolescents. They stress the significance of qualified supervision, individualized programming, and a focus on technique mastery rather than maximal loads.
Conclusion: Based on current research and expert opinions, weightlifting and strength training can be safe and beneficial for adolescents. When performed with proper technique, under qualified supervision, and appropriate progression, weightlifting can contribute to improved strength, fitness, and overall health without compromising growth or increasing injury risk.
Parents, coaches, and healthcare professionals should consider the individual needs, abilities, and goals of each adolescent before introducing weightlifting. It is essential to prioritize safety, proper form, and gradual progression to optimize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with adolescent strength training.
Ultimately, a balanced approach that includes age-appropriate resistance exercises, functional movements, and comprehensive training programs can help young athletes develop strength, resilience, and lifelong healthy habits. Consulting with qualified professionals, such as strength and conditioning coaches or sports medicine experts, can provide valuable guidance in designing safe and effective training programs for adolescents.
Andrew Ilieff - BeFit Training Physio Double Bay
Andrew Ilieff is a physiotherapist based in Double Bay, Sydney. Andrew has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Andrew specialises in lower back rehab, sports injuries and is a leading authority on Strength and Conditioning for Physiotherapists as the co-author of the University Of Technology Sydney Strength and Conditioning for Physiotherapists and casual academic lecturer. To book a consultation, click the link below.