Weight training in young athletes
Weight training in young athletes is often seen as unacceptable, and it is often quoted that it stunts growth or causes joint damage – this is not always the case. If a young athlete undertakes healthy controlled strength training regime then many positive effects can be seen. While these positive effects are beneficial, weight training in young athletes is not without risks and precautions should be taken to avoid them.
The first question often asked is what age is the right age to start lifting weights. That depends on the intensity and type of the training you have planned. Pre-pubescent children (roughly up to 12 years of age) benefit most from very low intensity strength training. This training should be focussed on proper skills and technique, which results in greater safety. This age of child also should focus on a broad range of major muscle groups rather than specific muscles. A good idea would be resistance training using the athletes own body weight such as push ups, as this is relatively low risk and focuses on a wide range of muscles.
Technique is everything. The AAP (Australian Academy of Paediatrics) suggests that people do not start weight lifting until they are 15 years of age. Before this age technique should be instilled and weight lifts should not involve maximal efforts. The AAP advises that the most injuries occur with physically immature kids lift heavy weights with a jerking motion. Athletes should always stay well within their weight range, concentrating on keeping a wide range of movement, in a slow and controlled motion.
A maximal effort is when you lift the heaviest weight you are capable of, which usually consists of 1-5 repetitions. This type of lifting almost always results in some form of muscle fatigue/ failure. This is not a bad thing, but often at the high end of your weight range technique is sacrificed. Therefore it is recommended you steer away from this type of training until you...