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More on Training Youth
Last Friday I had the honor of podcasting with my friend Dr. Mike McKenzie, Head of Exercise Science at Winston-Salem State University. Dr. McKenzie is a local guy, so he is of course my go to Doc for exercise science related questions. A few weeks ago, I emailed him wanting the latest research of resistance training as related to preadolescent and adolescent children. I wanted to make sure that my facts were straight because admittedly things change a lot as research is completed throughout the world.
I believe the podcast will air this Friday, so I suggest you guys tune in for Dr. McKenzie’s knowledge bombs. I coach a lot of youth and junior lifters, so I love to check the research periodically to make sure my protocols match up with the latest research. Dr. McKenzie did a great job of explaining the latest protocols, and he did it in a very easy to understand way. I can’t wait for this one to drop.
We have also decided to write a book on resistance training for youth, so all of you guys and gals will have a go to source. The book will be totally research based with our easy to understand explanations of the research. I just want all of the Dark Age lies and misconceptions to end. I will periodically write articles like this one to keep all of you informed as I am learning more and more.
Dr. McKenzie sent me this article, “YOUTH RESISTANCE TRAINING: UPDATED POSITION STATEMENT PAPER FROM THE NATIONAL STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING ASSOCIATION” to get me up to speed with the NSCA’s official position on training youth. The article is full of research, so I suggest all of you look it up and read it for yourself.
Here are a couple of big takeaways from the article:
1. Weight Training will not hurt Growth Plates- to date there hasn’t been one reported case of disturbance to the growth cartilage from any prospective studies regarding youth and resistance training. With that being said the keys are proper technique, proper strength training protocols, and supervision. The number one way that kids hurt themselves when it come to resistance training is unsupervised training at home. Normally it is either equipment failure or unwise decisions by the children. In one case a 9-year-old boy was killed while bench-pressing at home alone when the bar fell onto the young man’s chest.
2. Weightlifting has the lowest injury rate of most other sports- the average injury rate for all team sports is 2.4 injuries per 1,000 hours of participation. Weightlifting is .0013 injuries per 1,000 hours of participation. It’s probably because weightlifting is done in a controlled environment with a qualified coach. It’s weird that parents will allow their athletes to play sports where injuries are extremely high like soccer and football, but are afraid of weightlifting.
Why does America use emotions to make decisions versus data and facts? Soccer has about 4 injuries per 1,000 hours of activity. That’s over 3,000% higher. Not to mention weightlifting is shown to prevent the injuries of the other sports, which brings me to my next point.
3. Weightlifting Prevents Injuries of other Team Sports- Studies have shown that resistance training strengthens bones, tendons, and ligaments over the course of time, which has shown to prevent soft-tissue injuries in team sports. Girls are at a 3 to 6 time greater risk of ACL injuries than their male counterparts. Strength training can help manage those risks especially the non-contact injuries.
So why is it that people are afraid of resistance training? Rumors and folklore of the past is all that I can think of. The facts say something entirely different. Now I am going to make a bold statement. It doesn’t really matter what your doctor says. All that matters is the truth. Doctors are just people flawed by bias and misconceptions like the rest of us. If someone told them along the way that resistance training is bad, they probably repeat this false statement due to lack of education in the area.
Do your own research folks. Don’t listen to me or anyone else. Your kids only have one chance to go through this life. If you mess it up, you won’t get a second chance. I suggest spending some time and giving them all the advantages or science and research.
4. Resistance Training has been proven to improve the cardiovascular risk profile of youth- that means you can actually improve the heart of children throughout their adulthood not to mention you are instilling habits that will affect the rest of their lives. These habits are healthy habits that directly affect life expectancy and quality of life. It seems obvious to me.
5. How Heavy is too heavy? – Studies have shown that youth athletes going to 1 rep maxes presented to extra risk as long as those 1RMs were supervised and performed with proper technique. I am not saying to put your youth athletes on a Bulgarian training protocol, but don’t be afraid to test them for improvement. Most improvements in youth are neuromuscular adaptations and not really hypertrophic gains, so load isn’t necessary as much as proper movement. However testing the athletes periodically for strength adaptations is a good idea.
6. Resistance Training Produces Better Motor Skills- Basically that means that resistance training will make youth athletes overall better athletes. When an athlete has better motor skills that means that coordination is improved. Motor skills are one of the most important aspects of all sports.
Basically the studies show that resistance training is safe and protects athletes from injuries in other sports. Resistance training promotes overall improved health that lasts a lifetime. Resistance training will make you an overall better athlete. The key is proper supervision and technique.
My advice is to find a qualified coach. I recommend talking to other athletes coached by the individual to get real life feedback. Are the coach’s athletes getting better? Is the coach keeping the athletes sage? If you answered yes to the questions, that’s a pretty good coach. I recommend using facts to make decisions regarding your children because emotions and gossip will lead you down a destructive path.
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