Most people are driven by misconceptions and myths about paediatric resistance training. Some of the myth are:
- Children are more susceptible to injury due to the unfused 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 will answer these myths by giving the athletes, coaches, and parents a better understanding of the health benefits 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 during strength training?
- What is the recommended volume for strength training?
- 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. However, 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 enhances cardiac function.
- Strength training enhances bone mineral density and improves skeletal health.
- Strength training increases muscular strength, due to the maturation of the central nervous system. Such as improvements in motor unit recruitment.
- Strength training improves the firing frequency.
- Strength training improves the synchronisation.
- Strength training improves neural myelination.
It has been shown in a study 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 increase in muscle cross sectional area, due to increasing in muscle fibre size. Further, it increases the number of muscle fibres which is determined as a result of prenatal myogenesis which means the formation of muscular tissue, particularly during embryonic development.
Strength training increases the activation in the motor unit and improves neural development. Additionally, resistance training can reduce body fat, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce injury risk. However, 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. In contrast to the fears, 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 unfused growth plates”. The study suggests that chances to have injury are 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 remodelling and development of new bone occurs 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).
Adolescents and youth should not train strength training without supervision.
However, in a study conducted by 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. Consequently, we should train the children but under the supervision of a qualified personal trainer. Check here our personal trainers‘ list. Moreover, if you would like to buy a training program for children, check this program here ♥.