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The SCJ is the professional
journal for strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, athletic
trainers, and other health professionals working in the strength and conditioning
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Where It All Starts
Physical activity during childhood
and adolescence can have a profound effect on the exercise habits during
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?
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
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.
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.
Some 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
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.
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.
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.