Youth Strength and Conditioning - What the science says

With the ever-increasing popularity in youth sports, the desire for improved performance by our young athletes, and the continual development of youth sports coaching and development programs, science has seen the importance of studying the effects of youth training and its relationship to exercise physiology. It was once believed that resistance training in athletes younger than 16 was counterproductive and would lead to injury. New evidence indicates that resistance training for children as young as 5 and 6 has many benefits, as long as they participate in a well-designed and supervised program. With properly structured programs and coaching, researchers have observed an increase in strength, power, motor skills and even psycho-social behavior, as well as a decrease in injury rates sustained during competition. Most of the studies were 8-20 weeks in duration, ensuring adequate stimulation through intensity, volume, and duration with an observable strength increase of 74% in an 8-week program. The gains made are not permanent, and a once-a-week maintenance program was not enough to sustain the gains made. One important note from the current research is the need for athletes to have quality coaching during any intense physical training program. The benefits of having qualified instruction include proper programming to progress athletes systematically and avoid overtraining/injury, an eye for determining when an athlete needs to be progressed or regressed in his or her training, and a source of inspiration, determination and persistence…serving as a mentor for the young athlete.
Faigenbaum, A., Kraemer, W., Blimkie, C., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. (n.d.). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, S60-S79.
Powers, S., & Howley, E. (2007). Exercise physiology: Theory and application to fitness and performance (6th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.