This is a common question among parents. What age can my young athlete begin a strength training regimen?
Strength training movements such as push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, and calisthenics are acceptable movements to begin at a young age. The question is, strength training with resistance such as dumbbells, barbells, and machines... when is the appropriate age for parents to enroll their young athletes into a resistance training type program?
Although 13 is known as the acceptable age for a young athlete to begin a strength training regiment, credited certification programs state that ages even younger than 13 are acceptable.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), prepubescent children can safely participate in a resistance training regimen following the guidelines below (summarized):
- Children should be sufficiently mature that they can respond to coaching advice, follow proper instruction from a trainer, and show respect to trainer.
- Chid's exercise regimen should not consist of only resistance training. Outdoor play, stretching, and sports activities should be included as well.
- Children should avoid maximal or near-maximal lifts. Children should not select a resistance that only allows them to perform less than 8 repetitions. Focus on higher rep ranges such as 12-15 repetitions.
- Children should be supervised at all times during their weight-training sessions.
- Properly program strength training regimen so that overuse injuries may not occur. Do not put too much stress on a day to day basis on one specific muscle group.
- Proper form and technique must be maintained in all lifts. Never lose form for the sake of additional repetitions or resistance increase.
As long as young athletes are performing the exercises with proper form and with caution of overuse injuries, children will see results from their hard work and effort in a strength training program.
What are some of the benefits young athletes will experience from a strength training regimen, even at a young age?
Increased muscle strength and endurance, improved sports performance, improved cardiovascular function, and strong bones are some of the added benefits, just to name a few.
There is also the mental benefits for young athletes that will be vital for their performance on the field, and valuable for life lessons as well. Confidence will increase, an interest in health, nutrition, and exercise will grow, and children will also experience the reward of goal setting and accomplishing set tasks.
With proper safety strategies in place, a certified trainer, and efficient recovery plan to bypass any overuse injury, you can begin strength training with your young athlete to improve their sports performance sooner than you may think. But before beginning any strength training regimen, please consult your athlete's primary physician.