There is mounting evidence that resistance training in youth has many positive benefits, including improving sports performance, improving bone mineral density and decreasing the risk of sports-related injury. The World Health Organization supports the inclusion of resistance training in its physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents. Resistance training should be supervised by qualified professionals and be appropriate for the individual. This should account for an individual’s training age, sex and biologic age. Biologic age is a greater consideration than chronologic age as there can be a variability of 4-5 years of biologic age for a given chronologic age. Children as young as 5-6 years of age can benefit from resistance training provided it is appropriate for their skill level.
There have been concerns that resistance training may impact skeletal growth or damage growth plates. However, research does not support this and resistance training can actually help optimize bone mineral density. As well, children and adolescents who participate in resistance training have a lower risk of injuries and quicker recovery from injuries. Injuries are likely to occur if resistance training is not properly supervised or is excessive relative to the individual’s abilities.
Resistance training can occur 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days. The intensity and volume of training should be based on the ability of the child or adolescent. The number of sets and repetition maximum can be progressively increased as technique is mastered. Rest intervals between exercises can typically last 1 minute in duration as children and adolescents can recover more quickly. However, this can be increased to 2-3 minutes for higher intensity activities. When youth are starting resistance training, repetition velocity of exercises should be moderate and as experience increases, a wider range of velocities can be included.