Strength training in prepubescents

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Strength training for prepubescents is becoming increasingly common in sports and physical fitness. [1] Health benefits of strength training attainable by children and adolescents are similar to those as seen in adults if they follow age-specific training. [2] Strength training, if performed in a controlled and supervised manner, can help children and adolescents achieve better health, strength and over all well-being.[3]

Potential risks of Strength Training[edit | edit source]

Strength training, as any other form of physical activity, has some risks associated with it. However, this risk is no greater than in any other sport or physical activity that children and adolescents regularly participate in. [4] Most of the injuries reported are due to inappropriate training techniques, lack of or inadequate supervision or excessive loading[5] The risk of injury with strength training can be minimized by ensuring adequate supervision, designing an appropriate training programme, carefully selecting the training equipment, allowing adequate recovery time during the training sessions and addressing every child's queries and concerns

Benefits of Strength Training[edit | edit source]

Strength training programmes have a number of benefits apart from muscular strength, which include improvement in sports performance, prevention of injuries, enhancing overall health and well-being[1], increase in bone mineral density and cardio-respiratory fitness, weight management and improvement in motor performance skills.[5] Free weight training is better than training with machines as machines are often made as per adult specifications and may not be appropriate for the younger population. Moderate load-high repetition training has been found to be more beneficial than Heavy load-low repetition.[6]

Guidelines for Training[edit | edit source]

Developing a training programme should follow similar principles as developing a programme for adults. It is important to remember that prepubescents are still anatomically, physiologically and psychologically immature. The following guidelines should be followed when developing a training programme for a child or adolescent[2]:

  • It is essential to provide qualified supervision and instructions
  • The exercise environment should be safe and free of hazards/potential sources of injury
  • Each session should start with a 5-10 minute dynamic warm up period
  • Training should be stated with relatively light loads with the main focus on the technique and good performance
  • 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions should be performed on a variety of upper and lower body strength exercises
  • Specific exercises that strengthen the abdomen and lower back should be included in the programme
  • The programme should focus on achieving symmetrical muscular development and appropriate muscle balance around joints
  • The training programme should be sensibly progressed depending on needs, goals and abilities
  • Resistance should be gradually increased by 5-10% as strength increases
  • Cool down should be less intense and should include static stretches
  • Individual needs and concerns should be addresses in each session
  • Resistance training should be started 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days
  • Training programmes and progress should be logged in individual plans
  • Systematically vary the programme to keep it interesting and suitable for the age group
  • Healthy nutrition, adequate hydration and proper sleep should be advised to optimize performance and recovery
  • Constant support should be given by the trainers and parents
  • PROCESS - Fundamental principles of resistance training in youth[7].
    • P - Progression Gradual increase in the demands placed on human body
    • R - Regularity Continuous participation in exercise (2-3 days per week)
    • O - Overload Stress the body beyond what it is accustomed to
    • C - Creativity Introduction of novel exercises and training equipment to maintain motivation (possible participation of youth in development of training routines in safe environment)
    • E - Enjoyment Facilitation of prolonged exercise engagement by balancing skill and challenge
    • S - Socialization Facilitation of gain in competence and confidence along with optimization of training progress due to interaction with others
    • S - Supervision Safe exercise environment along with meaningful feedback
  • General Considerations
    1. Qualified instruction, close supervision and safe exercise environment
    2. Systematic variation of exercise selection and training intensity to keep program fresh and challenging
    3. Consideration of individual needs and concerns (e.g. training age, body size, maturation, fitness)
    4. Focus on proper exercise technique
    5. 2-3 training sessions per week on non-consecutive days
  • Exercise Session
    1. Start with 5-10 minute dynamic warm-up
    2. Inclusion of exercises addressing all major muscle groups and emphasis on symmetrical muscular development around joints
    3. Performance of multi-joint exercises prior to single-joint exercises
    4. Training of large muscle groups prior to small muscle groups
    5. Inclusion of exercises for balance and coordination
    6. End exercise session with cool down, including stretching
  • Intensity and Volume
    1. Start with 1-2 sets at ≤ 60% 1RM
    2. Following familiarization 1-3 sets of 6-15 repetitions for strength exercises around 80% 1RM
    3. Following familiarization 1-3 sets of 6-8 repetitions for power exercise


References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 American Academy of Pediatrics. Strength Training by Children and Adolescents. Available from [Accessed 25th Nov 2016]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Faigenbaum A, Kraemer W, Cahill B, Chandler J, Dziados J, Elfrink L, et al. Youth resistance training: Position Statement and Literature Review. Strength Condition J 1996;18:62-75
  3. Dahab KS, McCambridge TM. Strength Training in Children and Adolescents: Raising the bar for young athletes? Sports Health 2009;1:223-226
  4. Ignjatovic A, Stankovic R, Radovanovic D, Markovic Z, Cvecka J. Resistance training for youths. Physical Education and Sport 2009;7:189-196
  5. 5.0 5.1 Faigenbaum AD, Kraemer WJ, Blimkie CJR, Jeffreys I, Micheli LJ, Nitka M, et al. Youth Resistance Training: Updated position statement paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2009;23:S60-S79
  6. Faigenbaum AD, Westcott WL, Loud RR, Long C. The effects of different resistance training protocols on muscular strength and endurance development in children. Pediatrics 1999;104
  7. Drenowatz C, Greier K. Resistance training in youth—benefits and characteristics. Journal of Biomedicine. 2018;3:32-9.
  8. Zach Even - Esh Youth Athlete Strength & Conditioning Tips. Available from