A common question in the office is, at what age should my teenager begin weight or resistance training. At a younger and younger age, individuals are being identified and selected for state and competitive sporting teams. Performing well and avoiding injury is a key component to being both enjoying your sport and performing at your best.
We constantly talk in the office about the necessity of being “conditioned.” All this means is that you have developed your body to a level that allows it to perform your daily functions easily. This is different depending on a person’s age, and occupation. An elderly person compared with a brick layer or an elite athlete will all require different levels and areas of conditioning. The principle of maintaining the health and fitness of your body though remains the same.
One of the key considerations with children or teenagers doing weight training is that generally we will not see any major change in muscle mass until puberty. Hormones play a key role in muscle development. This assumes that the only reason to do weight training is to gain muscle mass. We know that increases in strength and body control in sport are major benefits of weight training outside of just gaining muscle.
The research indicates that teenagers who do a combined resistance training and aerobic program outside of their normal sport requirements can reduce the risk of injury by a half. It also suggests that increases in bone density and tendon strength are also seen in individuals who do a weight program.
If your teen is competing at a high level of sport or wants to improve their performance and reduce injury risk, some key factors are good to keep in mind.
- Weight training is different from weightlifting. Weight/resistance training focuses on improving musculoskeletal strength and overall fitness. Weightlifting, bodybuilding, and power lifting are competitive sports involving high-intensity training and especially for those in their early teens should be performed under direction from a qualified coach and health professional.
- The focus should never be to “bulk up.” We want to focus on increasing strength and proprioception (the body’s ability to know where it is in space and the nervous systems control over this)
- Be responsible with a weight training program. The program should focus on slow and controlled repetitions at a lower weight rather than very heavy weights. It is not to say that a teen should not lift heavy weights if qualified supervision is applied. The risk is that until the bodies growth plates are fused (this happens in the early 20’s) there is risk of damaging them which can effect growth. (for the average teen however, the risk of this is extremely low)
- Starting slow and building up are also important. Allowing the rest days between sessions is important for the body to repair and recover. Do not start a program every day, build up in intensity.
- Match nutrition. The old saying goes: “you can’t out exercise a bad diet.” Unless the body is fuelled well taking into consideration the micro and macro nutrient requirements you will not perform at your best. This goes for adults and children/teens. It is always best to consult your health professional on this as well.
- Remember to have fun. Enjoy the journey, it is not all about the destination. If the focus becomes only on achieving a result and the drive is to only perform at a certain level it can have a large impact on mental health. Again, consulting your health professional about this and monitoring as any training program progresses is key.
Remember that weight training in teen’s has so many benefits including building fitness, increasing strength and conditioning of the body’s tissues and the resulting avoidance of injury. Correct supervision and monitoring will ensure that the program is done correctly. If you have any questions about training programs for your teen, book in a consultation with one of our team of chiropractors or physiotherapists at Perth Allied Health Clinic. Book an appointment online today.