Strength Training for Youth Athletes


As a parent or coach, you may wonder when it’s safe for youth athletes to begin strength training. You may also wonder what exercises should be done and how often athletes should strength train.

Let’s start with defining strength training – it’s a progressive overload that forces the body to adapt and produce or resist larger forces. It’s a resource can aid sports performance by increasing strength and improving motor control.

Risk of injury and safety are two concerns that come to mind when a child begins strength training. But similar to other types of exercise, there are ways to minimize this risk. Working with a competent strength coach who will teach proper lifting technique, as well as supervise strength training sessions, can reduce the risk of injury.

When done properly, strength training has many benefits for youth athletes including:

  • Improved strength and coordination
  • Increased muscular endurance
  • Improved sports performance
  • Improved bone strength and bone density
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improvement of self-confidence and body image

Unlike adult athletes, youth athletes won’t increase muscle mass as they often don’t yet produce the hormones which make this possible. But just because they can’t develop muscle mass doesn’t mean they can’t develop strength along with motor control. As youth athletes begin fine tuning movements and pushing weights, their bodies learn how to coordinate these muscle movements together.

Designing a strength program for youth athletes begins with incorporating body weight exercises. This may include push-ups; variations of pull-ups; body weight squats, lunges, and hip hinges; and planks. Using body weight to perform the exercises allows for better learning of the movements as well as the development of core strength to help stabilize the body. Having a strength base and knowledge of how to move properly will make it easier to progress to more advanced lifts.

When young athletes begin strength training, the goal is to develop muscular endurance. This means athletes will perform exercises at a higher rep range – typically around 15. This higher rep range, and consistency of taking part in a strength training program, will allow athletes to grasp the concepts at a faster pace. As athletes mature and comprehend the basic lifts is when more advanced techniques can be introduced.

If you think your youth athlete is ready to start a strength training program, talk to a Bellin Titletown strength and conditioning coach or athletic trainer. You can contact us at 920-430-4888.