Contrary to popular belief, resistance training can provide benefit to all populations regardless of age. Safety is by and large the greatest concern regarding children’s’ participation in resistance training. The current research has shown no evidence that an age-appropriate resistance training program, done with proper supervision, is dangerous for a child. However, research has shown that resistance training can help children maintain a healthy body composition, improve skeletal and joint health, and improve sport performance. As long as a safe and detailed program is utilized, there seems to be no evidence to suggest that resistance training is detrimental to children.
Before we delve any further, resistance training needs to be defined to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. Resistance training is a method of exercise or conditioning that involves external loading to increase an individual’s capacity to produce force. Although resistance training is a common form of conditioning, as is running, most parents do not approve of resistance training because of misconceptions such as:
- Resistance training will stunt a child’s growth by sealing off growth plates
- Children have no testosterone so they won’t see benefits from strength training
- Children will ‘get in shape’ just by playing their sport(s)
- Speed/ speed-agility is the only training that is safe for children
- Strength training should only be done once the child is fully developed
Although there is no minimum age requirement at which a child can begin resistance training, several factors must be considered. One of those factors is the child’s age. Not necessarily chronological age but biological or physiological age. By that, I mean that not all ten year olds are the same; they differ in height, weight, coordination, and physical ability. One ten-year-old might be physically ready for resistance training while another may not. A child’s willingness to participate, psychological maturity, ability to pay attention and follow direction must also be considered. Generally, I would argue that if a child is ready for sport, they are ready for some type of resistance training. Research has shown that children as young as 6 years old have benefited from resistance training .
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