Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association
Published on Aug 1, 2009in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 3.02
· DOI :10.1519/JSC.0b013e31819df407
Current recommendations suggest that school-aged youth should participate daily in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is developmentally appropriate and enjoyable and involves a variety of activities (219). Not only is regular physical activity essential for normal growth and development, but also a physically active lifestyle during the pediatric years may help to reduce the risk of developing some chronic diseases later in life (196). In addition to aerobic activities such as swimming and bicycling, research increasingly indicates that resistance training can offer unique benefits for children and adolescents when appropriately prescribed and supervised (28,66,111,139,147,234). The qualified acceptance of youth resistance training by medical, fitness, and sport organizations is becoming universal (5,6,8,12,18,33,104,167,192,215). Nowadays, comprehensive school-based programs are specifically designed to enhance health-related components of physical fitness, which include muscular strength (169). In addition, the health club and sport conditioning industry is getting more involved in the youth fitness market. In the U.S.A., the number of health club members between the ages of 6 and 17 years continues to increase (127,252) and a growing number of private sport conditioning centers now cater to young athletes. Thus, as more children and adolescents resistance train in schools, health clubs, and sport training centers, it is imperative to determine safe, effective, and enjoyable practices by which resistance training can improve the health, fitness, and sports performance of younger populations. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recognizes and supports the premise that many of the benefits associated with adult resistance training programs are attainable by children and adolescents who follow age-specific resistance training guidelines. The NSCA published the first position statement paper on youth resistance training in 1985 (170) and revised this statement in 1996 (72). The purpose of the present report is to update and clarify the 1996 recommendations on 4 major areas of importance. These topics include (a) the potential risks and concerns associated with youth resistance training, (b) the potential health and fitness benefits of youth resistance training, (c) the types and amount of resistance training needed by healthy children and adolescents, and (d) program design considerations for optimizing long-term training adaptations. The NSCA based this position statement paper on a comprehensive analysis of the pertinent scientific evidence regarding the anatomical, physiological, and psychosocial effects of youth resistance training. An expert panel of exercise scientists, physicians, and health/physical education teachers with clinical, practical, and research expertise regarding issues related to pediatric exercise science, sports medicine, and resistance training contributed to this statement. The NSCA Research Committee reviewed this report before the formal endorsement by the NSCA. For the purpose of this article, the term children refers to boys and girls who have not yet developed secondary sex characteristics (approximately up to the age of 11 years in girls and 13 years in boys; Tanner stages 1 and 2 of sexual maturation). This period of development is referred to as preadolescence. The term adolescence refers to a period between childhood and adulthood and includes girls aged 12-18 years and boys aged 14-18 years (Tanner stages 3 and 4 of sexual maturation). The terms youth and young athletes are broadly defined in this report to include both children and adolescents. By definition, the term resistance training refers to a specialized method of conditioning, which involves the progressive use of a wide range of resistive loads and a variety of training modalities designed to enhance health, fitness, and sports performance. Although the term resistance training, strength training, and weight training are sometimes used synonymously, the term resistance training encompasses a broader range of training modalities and a wider variety of training goals. The term weightlifting refers to a competitive sport that involves the performance of the snatch and clean and jerk lifts. This article builds on previous recommendations from the NSCA and should serve as the prevailing statement regarding youth resistance training. It is the current position of the NSCA that: 1. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program is relatively safe for youth. 2. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can enhance the muscular strength and power of youth. 3. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth. 4. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can improve motor skill performance and may contribute to enhanced sports performance of youth. 5. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can increase a young athlete's resistance to sports-related injuries. 6. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can help improve the psychosocial well-being of youth. 7. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program can help promote and develop exercise habits during childhood and adolescence.