Should Youth Athletes Strength Train? | STACK Coaches and Trainers

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Should Youth Athletes Strength Train?

August 5, 2013 | Tammy Kovaluk

Must See Strength Training Videos

Is strength training safe for younger athletes? Is it effective? Will it help or harm your child? Young athletes can benefit from proper programming and technique, but safety must be their main concern.

Youth Strength Training and Stunted Growth

With appropriately designed and supervised strength training programs, there have been hardly any reported cases of fractures or growth plate injuries. The few cases that have been reported resulted from unqualified supervision and improper training.[1] Those two factors can contribute to injury at any time—not just during strength training. In fact, growth plates in prepubescent children are strong and resistant to shearing forces, one of the main causes of injury in the weight room.[1]

On the farms, before machines took over, everyone performed manual labor—including kids. The wheelbarrow was the Deadlift, bailing hay was the Power Clean, and carrying milk buckets resembled modern-day Farmer's Walks. Despite the physical labor, the vast majority of these young adults suffered no ill effects associated with stunted growth.

Will Strength Training Cause Injury?

The majority of bodybuilding, weight lifting and power lifting injuries are associated with haphazard training routines, not with competent strength training programs.[1] Documented injuries were most prevalent in the 1990s, when the strength and conditioning profession was new and training was done predominantly by unqualified people prescribing improper technique and excessive loading.

A great deal of documentation deals with the safety and effectiveness of child and adolescent strength training. The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and AOSSM (American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine) all support children's participation in appropriately designed and competently supervised strength training programs.[1] Supervision by a qualified professional is key to minimizing injury risk.[1]

Benefits of Strength Training for Youth Athletes

Proper strength training programs can benefit young athletes in many ways.

Reduced Injury Risk

A well-designed, properly supervised program can prevent injuries by reducing muscle weaknesses and imbalances, and improving sport-specific movement patterns.[1] Injuries caused by overuse can occur in any repetitive activity (e.g., running, throwing or swimming). However, most overuse injuries result from weakness or imbalance. For example, youth athletes should be able to perform a proper Squat or Lunge without their knees collapsing inward. Without sufficient strength, they risk knee injuries and chronic ankle instability.[1],[2],[8]

Teaching fundamentals and developing solid movement patterns pay off big as children get old enough to lift heavier weights. If a child has developed proper form for complicated lifts, he or she is one step ahead of kids who may be new to weight training.

Better Sports Performance

Outside of simply building muscle and improving coordination, strength training has a large carryover in a youth's sport of choice. Developing more power and enhancing related motor skills help young athletes perform on the playing field with a competitive edge. Numerous studies have looked at the effects of soccer training versus a combination of strength and conditioning along with soccer training. In all studies, only the players in the latter group improved their vertical jump. There were no improvements in the soccer-only training group.[5]

Improvements in Self-Esteem and Confidence

Improvements in self-esteem and confidence are important and often overlooked.[1] Gaining a mental edge is often the difference between performing your best and turning in a subpar performance. By mastering exercise techniques, setting personal bests and achieving goals, young athletes can build confidence through strength training.

Better Health

Keeping kids active enhances their immediate health and can establish good behavior that lasts a lifetime. Finally, strength training can help lower cholesterol and has a favorable effect on blood lipid profiles, making it ideal for fat loss and weight maintenance in overweight children.[1]

Read more:


[1] Benjamin, H. J., & Glow, K. M. (2003). Strength training for children and adolescents. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 31(9).

[2] Distefano, L. J., Blackburn, J. T., Marshall, S. W., & Padua, D. A. (2009). Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 39(7), 532-540.

[3] Dufek, J.S. and B.T. Bates. The evaluation and prediction of impact forces during landing. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 22:370-377, 1990.

[4] Faigenbaum, A.D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth resistance training: Updated position statement paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(5), S60-S79.

[5] Harries, S. K., Lubans, D. R., & Callister, R. (2012) Resistance training to improve power and sports performance in adolescent athletes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15, 532-540.

[6] Malina, R. (2006). Weight training in youth: growth, maturation, and safety: An evidence-based review. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 16(6), 478-487.

[7] Marsh, D. (2010). Little league elbow: Risk factors and prevention strategies. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32(6), 22-37.

[8] Presswood, L., Cronin, J., Keogh, J. W. L., & Whatman, C. (2008). Gluteus medius: Applied anatomy, dysfunction, assessment, and progressive strengthening. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 30(5), 41-53.

[9] Valovich McLeod, T. C., Decoster, L. C., Loud, K. J., Micheli, L. J., Parker, J. T., Sandrey, M. A., & White, C. (2011). National athletic trainers' association position statement: Prevention of pediatric overuse injuries. Journal of Athletic Training, 46(2), 206-220.

Tammy Kovaluk
- Tammy Kovaluk, MSc, CSCS, is the owner of RISE Sport Performance Training (Tucson, Arizona). Originally from Canada, she has over 15 years of experience working...
Tammy Kovaluk
- Tammy Kovaluk, MSc, CSCS, is the owner of RISE Sport Performance Training (Tucson, Arizona). Originally from Canada, she has over 15 years of experience working...
Must See
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,789,434
Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,306,711
RGIII Talks About His Legacy
Views: 22,127,087

Featured Videos

James Harden on Becoming a Franchise Player Views: 72,181
Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Views: 28,385
Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 574,246
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,880,088
Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,359,483
Colby Lewis's Four-Seam Fastball Technique
Views: 5,011,256
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,789,434
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,880,088

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Build Awesome Arms With This 15-Minute Workout

Trisets involve performing three exercises in succession without resting until you complete the third movement. You can use trisets for opposing muscle...

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

Build Wrestling Strength With the Gable Lock Isometric Hold

How Strength Training Changed Rory McIlroy's Game

3 Simple Strategies for a Better Workout

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

Improve Your Squat Depth With 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises

Evan Longoria's Off-Season Strength and Resistance Workout

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

4 Exercises From NFL Players to Build True Game Speed

Train Like a Pro: Peyton Manning's Core Workout

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

The Best Lower-Body Landmine Exercises

Save Your Shoulders With These Barbell Landmine Exercises

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

Get a Full-Body Workout With Just 2 Exercises

What Happens When You Do The Same Exercise Every Day?

Build Max Power With These Pulling Exercises

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

Mike Boyle: 4 Small Muscles That Can Lead to Big Gains

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

3 Keys to In-Season Baseball Training

How to Improve Shoulder Strength and Flexibility

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Exercise

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

Grab a Broom for This Fast-Paced, Full-Body Workout

Deadlift Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

12-Week Resistance Band and Chain Workout

Increase Your Explosiveness with the Power Curl

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

When Not to Try Unstable Hockey Training

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Prevent Volleyball Shoulder Injuries With These Exercises

Train Like a Pro: Damian Lillard's Basketball Core Workout

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

4 Simple Golf Core Exercises to Increase Your Driving Distance

The 3-Minute Total Arm Pump

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

Can You Survive This Insane 100-Rep Push-Up Challenge?

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

Todd Durkin