• Coaching Kids to be Active Adults
    Physical activity during childhood and adolescence can have a profound effect on the exercise habits during adulthood. Whether you are a coach, teacher, or parent, you have a chance to make a lasting impression on how children and adolescents perceive exercise.
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  • Coaching KidsWhere It All Starts
    Physical activity during childhood and adolescence can have a profound effect on the exercise habits during adulthood.

    A May 2012 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article examined exercise perception among non-athlete adults (reporting rarely or never exercising) and athlete adults (reporting exercising 3 times or more per week).

    Results of the study indicated that the motivation to exercise in adulthood may be influenced by experiences with youth sports and physical activity (2). This is particularly significant for youth coaches and physical activity educators that shape the way a child or teenager perceives sport and exercise.

    One negative experience could compromise a child’s perception of a particular sport or activity.

    What About Strength Training?
    For those coaches involved in strength and conditioning coaching with children and adolescents, the responsibility of making a positive impact might be even more challenging because of the immaturity the group has with the activity. Youth sports involve a gradual adaptation such as the transition from tee-ball, to little league, and eventually high school baseball.

    And let’s not forget about the first time Junior threw the ball in the backyard with dad. Strength training, on the other hand, is typically introduced at an older age and there is a smaller window for making a positive influence.

    Regardless of the late stage that strength training is implemented with children and adolescents, adaptability should still serve as the focal point for a coach. For the same reason a child does not transition straight from tee-ball to the high school dugout is the same reason a child should not transition from basic movement patterns to clean and jerks overnight.

    9 Year OldSome may think that strength training is dangerous for the youth population, but an adequately supervised program poses no more threat for injury than any other youth sport and it may even provide less.

    Furthermore, based on the results from the previous Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study (2), these positive attitudes may lead to a lifelong participation in strength training. Sport participation, at least on the competitive level, will come to an end at some point in any person’s life; however, strength training is an activity that is recommended and enjoyed by adults and children alike.

    It’s Not Just About the Sets and Reps
    Strength and conditioning coaches working with youth athletes must obviously pay attention to the program design variables (e.g., sets, reps, load, and rest), but they must not overlook the power of motivation and enjoyment. Strength training should be looked at as a fun activity for youth as well as a mode of improving their athletic performance and/or fitness.

    This rule of thumb doesn’t apply to coaches only; parents might also play a role. When comparing the athletes to the non-athletes in the above study, athletes had more physically active parents than the non-athletes. It is never too early to get children interested in activity even if it is in the weight room.

    Final Remarks
    Research on the benefits and safety concerns of youth strength training are detailed in the NSCA’s Position Statement on youth resistance training (1). Some of the benefits are listed below.
    • Enhanced muscular strength and power 
    • Improved cardiovascular risk profile 
    • Enhanced sports performance 
    • Increased resistance to sports injuries 
    • Improved psychological well-being 
    • Development of healthy exercise habits
  • GrabertD

    About the Author:

    Derek Grabert, MS, CSCS,*D

    Derek Grabert, MS, CSCS,*D is an Education Content Coordinator for the NSCA. He holds a master's degree in nutrition and has experience as a university instructor for human nutrition, anatomy, and physiology classes. He has coached high school athletes, special populations clients, and general fitness enthusiasts on the health benefits of strength training, aerobic training, and the integration of proper nutrition.


    Faigenbaum, AD, Kraemer, WJ, Blimkie, CJ, Jeffreys, I, Micheli, LJ, Nitka, M, and Rowland, TW. Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. J Strength Cond Res 23(5 Suppl): S60-79, 2009.
    Leyk, D, Witzki, A, Sievert, A, Rohde, U, Moedl, A, Rüther, T, Löllgen, H, and Hackfort, D. Importance of sports during youth and exercise barriers in 20- to 29-year-old male nonathletes differently motivated for regular physical activities. J Strength Cond Res 26(7): S15–S22, 2012.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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