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Resistance training for youth athletes: one of the keys to stopping childhood obesity


Posted by Jacques D of Visports Youth Training under Weight Training (Strength Training) on 30 November 2012 at 12:00 AM

Jacques D has been active in the sports industry for over 30 years; as a coach, a player and an official. He currently works as a coach in 5 different sports, specialising in volleyball and youth development. He's here to tell us how resistance training could be the key to cracking the childhood obesity problem.

Jacques D - visports and visportsyouth blogger and Tribesports memberObesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more. Obesity can lead to health concerns like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. An obese child is more likely to be obese as an adult when compared to an active child reaching adulthood. Childhood obesity has been on the rise since 1978 when the rate of obese or overweight individuals was only 15%.  Recent statistics show that 31.5% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 in Canada are obese or overweight with similar results being seen in the US and the UK.  The major causes of this epidemic are a sedentary lifestyle centered on television, video games and computers paired with an ever increasing fast-food society.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) in the US and Public Health Agency of Canada both recommend children and adolescents do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. The CDC go on to also recommend to “include muscle strengthening activities, such as gymnastics or push-ups and bone strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or running, at least 3 days per week as part of your child's 60 or more minutes”.

Obese youth tend to like child resistance training or circuit training because it mimics their normal activity when doing random play - short periods of activity mixed with short rest breaks. 

Child resistance training, when developed and supervised properly, can improve the strength, power, cardiovascular health, motor skills and sports performance of youth athletes. Starting children and adolescents on a good training program can help promote exercise habits that can carry through to their adult years.

The largest area of concern with child weight training is the potential damage to the growth plates in developing joints. Research studies that have been done to date have shown no evidence to support this belief. The injuries that have been reported have been a result of poor training techniques, excessive weight being used, poor equipment or a lack of qualified adult supervision. Physical activity in general does have the risk of injury but child resistance training has no more risk involved than most other sports or activities. In fact, in a one year period, school related injuries in resistance training (0.7%) were far less than in football (19%), basketball (15%) or soccer (2%).

Soccer push up - Physical activity is an important part of the normal growth and development of young bodies. Normal bone formation requires weight-bearing activity. Several research studies have shown an increase in bone mineral content and density in youth involved in sports and fitness programs. Gains have been shown in children involved in multi-joint resistance training (bench press, squat) and plyometrics (jumping, hopping). The largest gains were found in youth who participated in soccer, gymnastics and weight lifting. 

Researchers have reported a decrease in sports related injuries of 15 – 50% and an increase in motor skill development in youth athletes who perform sports specific child resistance training. 

There is no set age at which a child can begin resistance training. If they are emotionally and physically ready to follow coaching instructions and the stress of training and participate in a sports activity, then they are ready for some type of child resistance training. Here's a guide for How to plan a weights and resistance program for kids, it breaks down all the different aspects you should consider before starting a weights program for a child.

For youth athletes involved in more than one sport (highly recommended), active rest periods of 1–3 weeks between sports will help them recover physically and psychologically from training. 

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    encouraged this.



    Great article Jacques, I think it definitely makes sense to expose kids to different forms of exercise so that they don't immediately associate 'sport' with team sports. Do you use resistance training much with volleyball juniors?

    David L and Jacques D encouraged this.


    As the father of two boys under 10 years old, I appreciate you posting this information. They are active already but always good to get reinforcement! Thanks @cags !

    David L and Jacques D encouraged this.


    Junior athletes are quite young (under the teen years) to use actual weights. For those athletes, resistance training using body weight is ideal. Even the simplest movements can make a difference in their strength over time. Watch form - it is still important!

    encouraged this.


    I agree. As kids don't tend to actually experience hypertrophy, just enhanced motor unit activation, I prefer to let them climb, jump, push, pull, and play, and don't see a great deal of benefit from the lifting and shifting activites of free weights and the like. Of course, I always hated rehabing kids that actually did hurt themselves, and it was evident that the epiphyseal plate actually was damaged, though it was rare.

    Jacques D encouraged this.


    When I was younger (around 11 or 12) my sensai used to get us on "light circuits" which usually just included 3-5kg dumbell exercises and small kettlebells, and bag and pad work. as a young lad I was far too overactive, always trying to exert energy; as a result I attended classes 2 or 3 times a week, which totalled maybe 45 minutes of weight training and conditioning, and I've never had any developmental problems. Great article, more people should support and get involved in the next few generations' fitness.


    I think most of the fear surrounding kids lifting had to do with some anecdotal observations that occured in Japan 40 years ago, and had to do with working populations, not exercise. Strange stuff.

    Jacques D encouraged this.


    Agreed David. The mis-information out there is quite bad. It's the main reason I have dedicated my time to youth training and nutrition with 3 websites.

    David L and Adrian K encouraged this.

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