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Resistance Training in Sports

By Steve Kleeman, LATC
Head
Athletic Trainer Billerica High School


Northeast
Rehabilitation Health Network



One
does need to look far to see athletes using resistance training 
(weight lifting) to enhance
performance and prevent injury.  It
is widely accepted that resistance training can be a beneficial part of the
conditioning process for athletes. Recently, younger and younger athletes have
begun to use resistance training either as part of a general fitness program of
a part of the preparation for athletics. Many
people are skeptical of young people using strength training fearing injury or
possible impact on the growth rate of a child. 
Also, some skeptics question the benefits the child will receive. 
In other words,  Is strength
training prior to the onset of adolescence really necessary at all?

Most
if not all competitive athletes engage in weight lifting to enhance athletic
performance and /or to prevent injury.  More
and more we are seeing younger and younger athlete utilizing weight lifting with
an eye toward these same goals.  For
years now we have seen high level athletes using weight training as part of
their conditioning program.  We have
also seen high school age athletes using resistance training as part of their
athletic preparation.  Recently, 
we have seen middle school athletes begin to look at strength training as
a means of improving athlete performance altering physical appearance and
reducing injuries.  There are many
issues to consider when thinking about weight training in the pre-adolescent age
group, but this article will discuss the recommendations of experts regarding
safety injury prevention.

According
to the American Academy of Pediatrics the first step in discussing
pre-adolescent weight training is to make sure that 
qualified adult supervision is present at all times. 
This is important to ensure that the exercises are carefully chosen and
the resistance is appropriate for each individual child. 
Also,  it is very important
to have a qualified person available to carefully monitor each child to see that
the exercises are being performed safely and properly. Step two is to
differentiate between competitive weight lifting and strength training or
resistance training.  Weight lifting
competitively or attempting to lift the maximum weight the athlete is capable of
lifting, or power lifting , (which is the weight lifting seen in Olympic style
weight lifting) as well as bodybuilding are all considered inappropriate for the
pre-adolescent.  These styles or
types of lifting are inappropriate because the total weight lifted is too high. 
In these types of lifting the athletes will typically perform a few
repetitions at a very high weight which is an appropriately designed program for
increasing strength. However, with children, there is an increased risk of
injury, such as weights falling or musculoskeletal injury such as muscle strains
because the weight was more than the child was prepared for, 
as well as long term risks such as premature closing of the growth
plates.

Resistance
training, weight training, and strength training are all the synonymous and are
all acceptable for pre-adolescents.  Research
has shown that children who participate in a well supervised program appropriate
to each childs development there can be significant gains in strength. 
The program should use a weight that the child can lift 15-20 times for 3
sets.  If done correctly there is a
low risk of injury as there is in any well supervised physical activity. 
So while the amount of weight and the intensity might not be the same as
the Olympic weight lifters or professional athletes in training 
it can be a valuable part of a physically active lifestyle for many
children.