Strength training for children and adolescents

There is no reason why children and adolescents should not train strength. On the contrary, it is beneficial with training strength for all age groups - as long as you do strength training correctly.

Children and adolecents are very flexible and learn motor skills fast. Therefore they are most often better suited than adults to do strength training, says Tron Krosshaug, … but the training must be done correctly and that is what the rest of this article is about.

Krosshaug is professor at the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Department of Sports Medicine, at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences.

We will point out some key factors for children and adolescents who want to start or continue with doing strength training:

  • Technique
  • Knowledge
  • Importance of a feasible training program

 But first: an explanation of two common myths about youth and strength training.

No need to keep children away

One of the assumptions is that strength training can weaken growth, and that you for this reason should not start strength training before the body is grown and well developed.

- This has been a myth for decades, but does not hold true. There is no indication today supporting that strength training for these age groups generates ," says Tron Krosshaug.

Another myth he can debilitate is that young people should only exercise with their own body weight.

- I cannot see any logic in advicing “body weight only”. Body weight training can be very heavy too, he says. The key is to adjust the load to the person. This is easier done with external weights. Adjusting load for bodyweight exercises is possible, but requires more knowledge.

Krosshaug is emphasized the importance of doing the strength training exercises properly, that is with the correct technique and a reasonable plan and goal setting.

Importance of technique

Technique is important for two reasons. The first is to get the best possible muscle stimulus, the other is to avoid injuries. But how do you know what is the right technique if you have never been doing strength training before?

- There are many sources of information, in particular on the internet. However, be aware that not all are the best, so be critical.

You may want to start out with seeking advice from persons that are educated within exercise and training, and in addition have a few years experience with strength training, says Krosshaug.

The training program - your best friend

When the technique is taken care of, it is important to follow a training program and plan.

- Following a sub-optimal training program is still better than not following any program, adds Krosshaug.

There are several reasons for this statement:

  • With a plan for which exercises you do, the program will likely have a better balance. Typically, young boys may tend to train chest and biceps, and less on other important muscles. Over time, this may increase injury risk, and is not optimal if sports performance is desired
  • With a plan for the number of sets and repetitions you will get a better load and recovery balance
  • You can control the load in a way that you on one hand do not stop progressing, while on the other hand, you have a good chance to avoid too much training over time
  • If you train too heavily for a long period of time, you will not be stronger - you may even get weaker - and moreover you are far more prone to injury

Double the strength with the correct program

Also, with respect to the training program, Tron Krosshaug recommends seeking advice from competent persons with proper education.

- Find a person to connect to who has education within this topic, and who can help you setting up a program that makes sense for you, says Krosshaug.

In the long run, it is possible to more than double the strength when following a good training program. In addition, a good program must take into account that the body´s needs to rest. This is particularly relevant for children and young people who like to do sports activities, both during and outside school time.

- You must pay attention to any other activities you do, so you get enough rest, Krosshaug reminds you.

When this is ok, just start and work out. Good luck!