Most people are driven by misconceptions and myths about pediatric resistance training. Some of the myth are:
Children are more susceptible to injury due to the un-fused growth plates.
Resistance training would be harmful to the developing skeleton.
Children cannot gain strength from resistance training due to a lack of testosterone.
Weights training will stunt children and adolescent’s growth.
In this article, we aim to give athletes, coaches, and parents a better understanding of the health benefit from resistant training and the manual to understand the case such as:
- What age is appropriate to start strength training?
- What is the frequency of strength training?
- What is the intensity of strength training?
- What are the rest periods?
- What is the recommended volume?
- What is the risk of training at childhood age?
All these questions and more questions related to this subject we answer it with high quality of references from the newest articles in the research industry.
What age is appropriate to start strength training?
A study conducted in Australia by Duhig with 18 prepubescent under <12 years of age. Children were strength-trained three times per week for 9 weeks and the result ended with a 42.9% increase in strength. The increase was in adaptations in muscle excitation-contraction coupling, increasing motor unit activation, and improving motor skill coordination. On the contrast of the myth that says “weights training will stunt children and adolescent’s growth” a large study from the UK conducted by Lloyd, confirmed that resistant training gives positive alterations in overall body composition and metabolic health in children and adolescents.
The benefit of strength training for children
Strength training can enhance cardiac function.
Enhance bone-mineral density and improve skeletal health.
Muscular strength increases due to the maturation of the central nervous system such as improvements in motor unit recruitment.
Improvement in firing frequency.
Improvement in synchronisation.
Improvement in neural myelination.
A study has shown that children 5–6 years of age made noticeable improvements in muscular ﬁtness with resistance training exercises using free weights, elastic resistance bands and machine weights.
The benefits of strength training for adolescents
For adolescents, resistance training can increase muscular strength due to the structural changes that resulting from the increase of hormonal concentrations, for males more due testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor, which lead to increases in muscle cross-sectional area due increasing in muscle fibre size.
The increase in the number of muscle fibres determined as a result of prenatal myogenesis which means the formation of muscular tissue, particularly during embryonic development.
Increasing activation in the motor unit and improving the neural development, in additional resistance training can even reduce body fat, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce injury risk.
On the contrast to the traditional fears and misinformed concerns that says, “resistance training would be harmful to the developing skeleton” The fears that resistance training would injure the growth plates of youths or reduce eventual height in adulthood are not supported by scientiﬁc reports or clinical observations, furthermore it will increase bone-mineral density. For female resistance training programmes have been shown to reduce abnormal biomechanics, induce the neuromuscular spurt and decrease injury rates.
Elsewhere, another study by Micheli estimated on the contrast of the myth that says “Children are more susceptible to injury due to the un-fused growth plates” suggests that chance to have injury is less in a child (<13 years of age) than of an adolescent (13-19 years of age) because the epiphyseal plate of a child is stronger and more resistant to shearing forces.
What is the epiphyseal plate?
The epiphyseal plate is an area where the formation of new bone is possible. It is located at each end of long bones. In this area remodeling and development of new bone occur enabling the long bone to grow in length and girth until the closure of the growth plate at skeletal maturity. The plate is found in children and adolescents and after that age the entire cartilage becomes replaced by bone, leaving only a thin epiphyseal scar which later disappears.
The epiphyseal plate consists of three principal layers with immature cells in the resting zone. “Stem-like cells in the resting zone have a finite proliferative capacity that is gradually exhausted, which consequently results in the fusion of the growth plate at the end of puberty” (EMONS et al. 2009, P. 654).
The recommended training program for children and adolescents
The recommended training program should include exercises that target the balance, coordination, and strength at the same movement with complex movement with the right technique.
What is the minimum age for training?
The minimal age for a child to start weight training is 6 years of age.
How many times should the youth train?
According to two studies the athlete should weight train 2-3 days per week.
In which intensity should youth train?
The intensity should be 6-15RM or 50-85% 1RM the studies mention that intensity should be moderate to high. For those who are overweight and has obese low intensity is recommended. The rest period is at least 3 minutes between sets and exercises while another study says one minute should sufﬁce for most children.
How much volume should the youth train?
A study mentions that an overall volume of 1-3 sets per muscle group while a long duration for those who are overweight and has obese.
Adolescents and youth should not train strength training without supervision
According to Jonasson et al. (2014) overloading the hips in growing individuals can disrupt the epiphyseal plate. Even Faigenbaum et al. (2009, P. 62) mention that growth cartilage can be easily damaged by repetitive microtrauma, improper lifting techniques, or maximal lift. That’s why We in Astrakos.com think that strength training should be followed by the supervision of a qualified trainer because if youth hurt themselves in the epiphyseal plate in a sport especially by accident injury, that can lead sometimes to deleterious or dysfunction in that area and may growth not occur partially or completely. We want to mention also that most of the studies have investigated muscles related issues, bone density, neural issues, fat issues, but there are limited studies that investigate bone volume and length. That’s why new studies should be conducted with a focus not only on bone density but also on the bone volume and length.
Duhig. S. (2013). strength training for the young athlete. Journal of Australian strength and conditioning. Journal of Australian strength and conditioning. 21(4), pp. 53-58. (02-01-2018)
Emons, J., Chagin, A, S., Hultenby, K., Zhivotovsky, B., Wit, J, m., Karperien, M. & Sävendahl, L. (2009). Epiphyseal Fusion in the Human Growth Plate Does not Involve Classical Apoptosis. International pediatric research foundation. 66(6), pp. 654-659. DOI:0031-3998/09/6606-0654.
Faigenbaum, D., Kraemer, W, J., Blimkie, C., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L, J., Nitka, M & Rowland, T, W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. National strength and conditioning Association. (23), pp. 60-79. Doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31819df407.
Jonasson, P, S., Ekström, L., Swärd, A., Sansone, M., Ahlden, M. & Karlsson, J. (2014). Strength of the porcine proximal femoral epiphyseal plate: the effect of different loading directions and the role of the perichondrial fibrocartilaginous complex and epiphyseal tubercle – an experimental biomechanical study. journal of experimental orthopaedics. 1 (4), p.1. Doi.org/10.1186/s40634-014-0004-y.
Lloyd, S,R., Faigenbaum, A, D., Stone, M, H ., Oliver, J, L., Jeffreys, I., Moody, J, A., Brewer, C., Pierce, C, K., McCambridge M, T., Howard, R., Herrington, L., Hainline,H., Micheli, J, L., Jaques,R., Kraemer, W, J., McBride, G, M., Best, T, M., Chu,D, A., Alvar,B, A. & Myer, G, D. (2013). Position statement on youth resistance training. International consensus. pp. 1-12. doi:10.1136/bjsports2013-092952.
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