Welcome to Parkway Physiotherapy's patient resource about training for kids.
Strength Training and the Young Athlete
Will lifting weights stunt a child’s growth or injure their softer growing bones?
This article will hopefully clear up a few misconceptions and lay some ground rules for training the
1. The Central Nervous System: The true measure whether a youngster should strength
train is based on the maturity of the nervous system, not the number of birthdays that
have been celebrated. If we apply exercises correctly, no child’s muscle system will
be damaged, however a lack of movement control can lead to unsafe exercises and
2. Maturity of Bone: A Study of 10-11 year old boys and girls showed a 40% increase in
strength after a nine week program. The risk is that young developing bones are
softer and more elastic. The ground rules, therefore, are to train with excellent form
and to keep loads low to begin. As for the argument that we will stunt the growth of a
youngster, the opposite is actually true as long as good form is held. Muscle
contractions will stimulate bone thickness and stimulate bone growth.
3. Hormones: The reason boys and girls react differently to strength training after
puberty is due to androgenic, or muscle building hormones. Before puberty, neither
boys nor girls will appreciate signiﬁcant growth of their muscles although they can
certainly become stronger. In the adolescent athlete, muscle size increase are
possible and sometimes recommended but will depend on the level of hormones in
4. Technical Issues: A physiotherapy or orthopaedic assessment is required without
question. Even body weight exercises such as pushups are often performed
incorrectly to the point that postural problems are made worse. Adding more
resistance to poor form will not improve results.
Strength training must be progressed, step by step, for each individual, based on the
Stretching for Kids
When is the best time for my child to start stretching exercises?
Boys 9-12 and girls 8-11 can start general stretches.
The phase for girls 11-15 and boys 12-16 requires the greatest emphasis on ﬂexibility
training due to the growth of the child’s bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This
period in a child’s development is also called the adolescent growth spurt. The
adolescent should be assessed for muscle or posture imbalance during this period. Be
patient on the stretching program during this phase as bones grow faster than muscles
and tendons. Some kids go through an uncoordinated or goofy phase as they try to
regain control on their limbs.
Parents, coaches, educators and athletes need to be aware of characteristics of the
adolescent growth spurt so that exercises and training can have the greatest effect on
the health and performance of the child. For a young athlete, the growth spurt also
marks the time to develop the child’s aerobic base.
Now we must issue a warning - Please see a physiotherapist before embarking a young
person on a stretching program. Some people have loose joints that should not be
stretched and some will perform their stretches from poor postures. Stretches
incorrectly performed can make a poor posture worse or lead to injury.