Before we start, lets explain what Strength Training is.
If there was a definitive phrase to encompass what the generalised term of Strength Training is then this little piece from Rhodri S. Lloyd in his book Strength and Conditioning for young athletes does as fine a job as i have ever seen…
‘Strength training is a general term concerned with regular exercise used for enhancing strength and strength related characteristics, such as muscle hypertrophy (building of muscle), maximum force production, strength endurance, rate of force development, power and speed. Strength training can involve bodyweight, exercises, resistance producing devices, such as stretch bands, or various machines, free weights or combinations of all of this equipment. Strength training can be part of an overall programme for health and wellbeing or part of the training for sport.”
In short Strength training is awesome and incorporates many different fitness qualities that can lead to any young person partaking in it living a better quality of life.
Common myths surrounding Strength Training
Before I talk further into why strength training is awesome, I would like to write a few bits on the misconceptions behind lifting weights at a young age. Something we have to explain a lot to parents in particular.
Misconception 1 – Weight training causes injury.
It is of common thought of many adults that exposing a younger person to lifting weights will cause them injury. In fact in a lot of places it is common to find access to gym facilities restricted until an individuals is 16-18.
In research completed on injury type and injury rates associated with strength training. Injuries among youth and adults are less common than in sports such as football and rugby (Hamill, 1994; Stone et al., 1994).
Any injuries are generally a result of poor programme design, poor technique or lack of qualified supervision. Something which shouldn’t happen. Ever.
Misconception 2 – Weight training stunts growth
Another common misconception is that weight training stunts the growth of young people. This is simply not true. Weight training sensibly using correct lifting techniques will not have any negative effects on a child’s growth. No significant research has ever shown this to be the case.
See these studies for yourself on injury rates and on effects on growth…
Now lets look at the current state of health of young people and why strength training has a key role to play in creating positive change.
It is recommended that young people engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day with additional muscle and bone strengthening exercises 3 times per week.
World Health Organisation, Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. (2010)
Despite this evidence, less than 50% of young people in Europe meet these recommendations suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report also shows a decline in Physical Activity (PA) with age.
25% of 11-year olds are meeting recommendations, but by age 15 just 16% are meeting recommendations. This shows year on year decline in PA currently being witnessed in young people between the ages of 5 and 15.
This emphasises the need for us to intervene and provide more opportunities for young people to stay active and strength training is a great enjoyable activity to help achieve this.
Performance in muscular fitness tests have declined 27% in 10 years in English school children. This downward trend seen indicates there is a severe lack of activities that are supporting the development of muscular fitness within young people.
Sandercock GRH, Cohen DD (2018)
This is something that needs to be addressed. Lower levels of muscular fitness are associated with the development of non-communicable disease in young people.
Physical inactivity increases the risk of many conditions such as;
Type 2 Diabetes
All of which lead to reduced life expectancy and reduced quality of life.
Due to current levels of PA in youths – figures are going to get worse. Costs associated with muscular weakness and associated pathologies will cost the uk £2.5 billion per year! – Health Care Costs Associated With Muscle Weakness:
A UK Population-Based Estimate. Calcified Tissue International. 2018
Reasons why young people should participate in Strength Training
Research suggests incorporating strength training could have profound effects to the overall health and wellbeing of young people.
Resistance training is one of the top 6 ranked life long global sport and leisure time physical activities. This means it is one of the most popular things people take up as hobby in their free time to stay fit and healthy.
It is currently not ranked in america and at the bottom of the list in Europe in activities participated in within schools.
\This means there is little to no exposure to it while the majority of sports performed during school years don’t make the top of the list!
Lifting weights or Strength Training has been shown to improve athletic performance in kids.
Here is a study comparing groups of kids performing a strength training program designed to improve performance in football. The group that performed a strength programme alongside their normal training showed marked improvements in fitness qualities important in football performance.
The National Strength And Conditioning Association (NSCA) current position on strength training for kids.
Finally to close our reasoning of why young people should lift weights here is The National Strength And Conditioning Association (NSCA) current position on strength training for kids.
From this paper here are the 7 key findings
(some are very similar to ones mentioned above).
A properly designed and supervised resistance training program is safe for youth.