Why Should Junior Athletes Perform Strength Training?

 Why Should Junior Athletes Perform Strength Training? 

Researchers recommend that children should build good strength, motor control and fitness before they begin taking part in competitive training. Incorporating basic jumping activities into free play can strengthen kids muscles and tendons and prepare them for sport in later life. 

The problem is, that all the evidence these days suggest that kids are less active and do not spend enough time playing outside, which may mean that the musculoskeletal systems of aspiring young athletes are ill prepared for their sport.

There are many benefits of strength training for junior athletes, the 2 most important points are to reduce injury risk and improve athletic performance. 

1. Reduce Injury Risk: 
  • There is growing evidence that shows participation in regular resistance training by young athletes leads to a reduction in acute and overuse injuries over the competitive season, as well as a shortened rehabilitation period if injured.
  • In general, injury records show that female athletes of all ages may be predisposed to certain injuries (e.g. anterior cruciate ligament rupture (ACL)) compared to their male counterparts. This is thought to be in part, due to differences in biomechanics displayed between female and male athletes. Researchers have found that young female athletes who have participated in strength training as they matured, demonstrated fewer of the injury risk factors e.g. increased knee angles with landing.
  • A recent meta-analysis of all the available literature, revealed that an age related association between resistance training and a reduction of ACL injuries may exist. In that strength training only reduced ACL injury incidence when it was implemented between the ages of 14-18.
  • It is important to learn the correct movement patterns and sequences under qualified supervision before adding weight into the resistance program. 

2. Improved Athletic performance:
  • An appropriately designed and implemented program will:
  • Improved Muscular strength
  • Improve Power Production
  • Increase running velocity 
  • Increase change of direction speed 

Other benefits of strength training in the adolescent population include:

  • Improved bone mineral density throughout the lifespan
  • Increased load capacity of tendons and muscles. 
  • Improved recovery time if an injury occurs.

Common concerns and Q’s

Children will injure themselves lifting weights
  • MYTH! Research has shown that when children are coached correctly, and establish good motor patterns before introducing weights, the benefits are great and the injury risk is minimal! 
  • The majority of injuries related to strength training in youth are due to accidents, poor form and inadequate supervision and education from trained professionals.
Strength Training for children stunts their growth
  • MYTH! Numerous studies have shown that there is NO negative effect on growth plates from strength training.
  • What it WILL do, is build a strong, resilient junior athlete, that has less risk of injuring themselves.