It’s generally accepted that high school athletic programs help your child prepare for the future by building confidence, teaching teamwork and promoting leadership skills. Strength and conditioning training can not only enhance performance on the field of play, but can also enhance life lessons often derived from participation in athletics. Whether your child is an elite student-athlete or simply enjoys being active or participating in sports, lessons learned “in the gym” can increase focus on things like time-management, GPA and positive character.
Every student-athlete parent wants success for their child in today’s game and many see benefits in enhancing their child’s potential to participate in collegiate-level athletics. Strength and conditioning training can enhance these short- and medium-term benefits, but even these valuable benefits can seem small compared to the benefits of early development of healthy habits that can give your child a lifetime of value.
Success in strength and conditioning training is predicated on quality coaching and student-athlete dedication. A program that is designed safely and with consideration for each athlete’s age, level of experience and fitness goals can improve performance, prevent and rehabilitate injuries, promote positive habits, and improve long-term health. Effective use of today’s data collection and measurement tools can not only enhance an athlete’s ability to see and measure progress but, in connection with positive one-on-one live coaching feedback, can also keep a strength and conditioning program engaging.
We commonly hear five questions regarding youth strength training and conditioning:
What Are The Benefits of a Strength and Conditioning Program?
Strength training has many benefits for athletes of all ages. Done properly, strength training can
- increase muscle strength and endurance.
- help protect muscles and joints from sports-related injuries.
- help improve performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer.
- help develop proper techniques that children will use as they grow older.
In addition, strength and conditioning training can strengthen bones, help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, help maintain a healthy weight, and improve confidence, self-esteem and mental health.
The Department of Health and Human Services, recommends school-age children get at least 60 minutes of daily activity, including muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises at least three days a week.
Is Lifting Weights Dangerous?
Unsupervised or ill-designed strength and conditioning activities can, in fact, be dangerous. That said, a professionally designed program under the supervision of experienced coaches can be very safe. There are seemingly no end to myths associated with the impact on development related to strength and conditioning programs. Developmental harm, particularly skeletal development, and growth stunting are just a couple examples.
That said, there is actually no scientific evidence indicating that participation in a well-designed youth program will lead to any of these non-scientific conclusions. Studies actually show that regular participation in age-appropriate resistance training decreases the number of injuries in youth sports.
It is true that injuries can occur due to poor program design, misuse of equipment, use of excessive weight or improper form. Strength and conditioning training is safe when a program is designed, well-supervised and administered by a qualified coach who ensures proper form and techniques along with positive, consistent feedback.
What Do I Look For When Choosing A Strength and Conditioning Program?
When designing programs for student-athletes, several factors should come into play. A qualified coach should build a unique program for every workout that considers the athlete’s age, level of fitness, experience, sport(s) they play and their overall fitness goals. Beware of one-size-fits-all fitness classes or routines – your fifth-grade gymnast doesn’t need the same things as your eleventh-grade volleyball player.
Programs should be uniquely tailored to each student-athlete and align with their growth, maturity and experience level, and balance their needs for motor skills (form) and muscle strength, power, speed, reactivity and recovery (function).
Your student-athlete’s current level of competence (and confidence!) in their chosen sport is also a very important part of program design, as is their age (biological maturity). If your coach doesn’t use every one of these considerations in their design for your child, at best you are paying too much for the value you are getting, or at worst, you are in the wrong gym entirely. The same is true if they do not make effective use of technology, testing and data collection to help your child stay on track and visualize goals.
Why Is Data Important?
Testing athletic qualities in student-athletes captures information that enhances overall program design, the design of specific workouts and a coach’s insights and understanding of fluctuations in your child’s physical fitness.
Collecting data helps coaches explain and compare test results from athletes within an age group with varying maturity levels and can provide the coach with insights to share with you and your child. Analyzing data and sharing fact-based insights is an important aspect of assisting student-athletes in understanding performance and making ongoing improvements and progress toward goals.
For example, a student-athlete at the peak of their adolescent growth spurt will often experience changes in coordination and movement control. Data can help inform needed training adaptations and keep individualized programs truly reflective of your child’s unique needs at that moment and continue their progress toward their fitness goals.
Overall, through sports analytics technology, coaches can conduct more fair and insightful reviews of an athlete’s improvements by tracking and presenting performance data. Student-athletes will also be more invested in their training when they understand and are involved in the data collection process.
Is a Single-Sport Focus Better Than Multiple Sports?
Some people believe that early specialization in one sport involves intense training schedules and chronic exposure to the same skills during important developmental years may have negative effects. They cite that limited exposure to other sports can lead to reduced long-term participation, “burnout” or even injury. On the other hand, some people believe that focusing early on a single sport gives the athlete the best change to perform at an elite level.
While debate on this topic is lively, we believe that whatever choice is made (one-sport vs multiple sport), the incorporation of strength and conditioning training that targets the development of general movement competencies and increases athleticism as a whole will help develop your child into a “well-rounded” athlete. The goal should be development of athleticism on a broad scale, leaving you and your child with the ability to choose single-sport or multi-sport without suffering the struggle of debate about which is better.
A successful student-athlete will see strength and conditioning as a means to improve current performance (this season, next season), enhance short-term opportunities (for leadership, collegiate opportunities) and, perhaps without noticing it now, develop of lifelong healthy habits. Along the way, an effective, engaging strength and conditioning program can lead to having more fun — a reward in and of itself — and, to some, the easiest benefit to lose sight of. If you or your child’s coach or trainer can make having fun one of the principal goals, your child’s experience in sports will remain effective, engaging and enjoyable for a lifetime.
At Method Sports & Fitness, our expert coaching, personal attention and state-of-the-art data-measurement technology — and use of that data to provide direct feedback about progress —helps ensure our student-athletes have the tools they need to reach their goals, while staying engaged and focused and enjoying the training process.
Clinic Staff, “Strength Training: OK for Kids?,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758
Dr. Scott Gray, “3 Myths About Youth Strength Training,” Sept. 11, 2020, https://bimfitnessandperformance.com/3-myths-about-youth-strength-training/
Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D., FACSM; Rhodri S. Lloyd, Ph.D.; Jon L. Oliver, Ph.D, “Mythbusting Youth Resistance Training,” March, 25, 2020, https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-blog/2020/03/25/mythbusting-youth-resistance-training
Faigenbaum, Avery D EdD, CSCS; Myer, Greg D PhD, CSCS; Naclerio, Fernando PhD, CSCS; Casas, Adrian A MS, “Injury Trends and Prevention in Youth Resistance Training,” Strength and Conditioning Journal, June 2011, https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/fulltext/2011/06000/injury_trends_and_prevention_in_youth_resistance.3.aspx#:~:text=Indeed%2C%20regular%20participation%20in%20an,18%2C27%2C28).
Rhodri Lloyd, “Youth Strength and Conditioning: Answering the Three Most Common Questions,” https://www.sportsmith.co/articles/youth-strength-and-conditioning-most-common-questions/