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Children & Resistance Training - Part 2

Brendan Chaplin examines the statement: Do children and adolescents need resistance training?

Fact or Fallacy: Children should not train with weights? There are a few questions to be answered in this debate which are:

  • Is resistance training safe to use with children and adolescents??
  • Do they need it?
  • What are the benefits?

This first article considers the question of safety, this article considers if they need it, and the third article looks at the benefits of resistance training.

Do they need resistance training?

Although I would say that young people who want to improve sports performance will generally benefit more from practicing and perfecting skills of the sport than from resistance training. In the days of sports being taken extremely seriously from a young age, the value of strength training to the young performer is increasingly important.

Take the early specialization high skill sports such as tennis, badminton, soccer, and many more. Rightly or wrongly participants are often undertaking ten or more hours of one sport per week, and becoming very skilled at these sports. However, the time spent developing sports-specific actions also creates asymmetries and imbalances, meaning that injuries frequently occur in these juniors.

I am not in favour of early specialization; my view is that children should play as many sports as they can, and I would hope to go down this path with my kids. But it appears that I am in the minority, and these injuries are occurring in some of these sports.

If you are working with these sports as a trainer or S&C coach, you have to take the line of it is unethical not to be strengthening the key areas to give these kids a chance to continue playing.

On top of that, you have a more sedentary youth population nowadays. It is all well and good saying play sports but are they going to do it? Parents look to trainers and S&C coaches to provide that physical stimulus to their children as they will not get it elsewhere. It is a niche that is growing and includes fun and challenging work for us coaches.

Even in the late specialization sports such as rugby union, the argument is the same, just a little more delayed.

Here is a quote from the RFU (2007)[2] position statement of youth strength training:

Young rugby players need long-term, comprehensive skills and conditioning program that includes well planned and supervised strength training from an early age. This is desirable for all young players who might eventually play club rugby as adults; it is essential for young players who aspire (realistically) to play at the elite level.

Professional rugby players are increasingly large and powerful. England international forwards and backs in 2003 weighed, on average, 109 kg and 90 kg respectively, compared with 100 kg and 83 kg for their counterparts in 1991. A higher proportion of this additional weight in modern players is lean body mass, so more force is generated in the collisions. (England Rugby Injury and Training Audit 2002-04).

To compete in the professional game, a young player must often become bigger, nearly always stronger, and more resistant to injury through the use of a strength training program.

Most players in England will not have been introduced to this type of training until 16, and in many cases, 18 years old. The player is then often "fast-tracked" through a strength programme to prepare him for the rigours of the adult game. This is potentially harmful to the player if the necessary foundation work has not been done to enable him to tolerate the loads.

Young athletes are making the same mistake, so many did in the 1950s and 60s. They attempt to "play themselves into shape". With high sports demands and forces acting on young bones, ligaments, and tendons, sport-related injuries have started to proliferate. Often the injury is due to being physically unprepared to participate. Optimal resistance (strength) training may be key to the prevention of injuries in high school athletes.

By the early 90s, people realized young athletes needed to prepare their bodies as they were not able to meet the demands, and resistance (strength) training might be of help in preparation and injury prevention (Fleck & Kraemer (2003)[1])


  1. FLECK, S. KRAEMER, W. (2005) Strength Training for Young Athletes. London, Human Kinetics, p.3
  2. THE RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION (2007) Strength Training for Young Rugby Players – Position [WWW] Available from: sw RFU position statement - strength training for young players.ashx [Accessed 30 October 2012]

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • CHAPLIN, B. (2012) Children & Resistance Training - Part 2 [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brendan Chaplin is currently Head of Strength and Conditioning at Leeds Metropolitan University. In this role, Brendan oversees all performance programs across the university as well as leading on the GB Badminton High-Performance Program, Yorkshire Jets Superleague netball, Women's FA through the English Institute of Sport, and Rugby League. Brendan is also the regional lead for TASS where he delivers and co-ordinates delivery for all funded athletes based at the Leeds Hub site. He also consults with England Golf and works with a wide variety of athletes from martial artists to cyclists, children, and adolescents alike. Before his current role, Brendan has worked with many governing bodies and institutions including British Tennis, Huddersfield Giants, English Institute of Sport, Durham University, and many more.