Life Was Good for the 10-Year-Old. He Finished Fourth Grade with an Impressive R

Article excerpt

Life was good for the 10-year-old. He finished fourth grade with an impressive report card, had many good friends and excelled at a variety of park district-sponsored sports. The boy also looked to be in fine shape during his annual physical exam. Already tall and lean, he still showed no signs of entering puberty and had a lot of height growth ahead of him.

His mother had no real concerns but did have one question. Her son had been pushing for permission to lift some weights, but his mother was hesitant and worried that weights would damage his still-developing body.

Her question was a good one, and fortunately, two organizations provide useful information to guide parents and coaches on the subject of youth strength training. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness published its revised "Strength Training By Children and Adolescents," while in 2009, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) followed with an updated position statement on "Youth Resistance Training."

The AAP does approve of involvement in formal strength and resistance training -- which includes the use of free weights, weight machines, elastic tubing or body weight -- provided the athlete first receives medical clearance to participate and then works under the direction of an instructor certified in pediatric strength training. Research reveals that, when combined with participation in a sports program or comprehensive fitness program, strength training can have a positive effect on a young person's bone density, cardiovascular health and overall sense of well-being.

The AAP notes that strength training should not begin before a child is 7 or 8 years old, the age when balance and control are considered to reach the adult level of development. The academy finds that for healthy young athletes, "appropriate strength training programs have no apparent adverse effect on linear growth, growth plates, or the cardiovascular system. …