Is Resistance Training in Adolescents Safe?

On The Sports Physiotherapist blog I have a post that reviews the safety of resistance training in children. I’ll post a summary of the findings in this post, however, if you are interested in the nitty gritty please follow this LINK to the full post. I have separated my article into two sections, the first looking at the risks involved with resistance training, and the second (yet to be posted) will discuss what benefits resistance training might offer.

As explained above the review looks at the issues of safety in regards to children using weight to supplement their training regime. The question I ask is “Would you want your children (or young clients) undertaking resistance training as part of their performance enhancing or injury prevention programs?”

The first thing that I should clarify is what resistance training is all about, specifically in regards to children and adolescents. Resistance training is a method of physical conditioning that involves applying a resistive load to a selected group of muscles to make them work harder. The application of the load can be done with many different techniques and devices, this includes; free weights (barbells and dumbbells), elastic bands, medicine ball, weight machines and body weight (including plyometric exercises). With the children and adolescents I would only ever consider sub-maximal loads, as a safety precaution. Resistance training in children and adolescents should be regarded as separate from the competitive weight lifting sports (including power lifting and body building).

Historically, pre-1990, there has been a reluctance to incorporate resistance training with young athletes.  However, now there is an ever increasing tread to include resistance training into the training regimes of young athletes. I will be discussing the efficiency of resistance training in my next post. But this post will give you the risks side of the ‘risk vs benefit’ comparison.

Sport Number of injures (per 100 hrs)
Resistance training 0.035 to .11
Weight lifting 0.0017
UK Rugby 1.92
USA Rugby 0.8000
UK Cross Country 0.37
Squash 0.10
US Football 0.10
Badminton 0.05
USA Gymnastics 0.044
USA Basketball 0.03
USA Volleyball 0.0013
USA Tennis 0.001

The highs and lows of the risks are that there have been some very serious complications associated with resistance training. However, they have common contributing factors. The overall incident rate of injuries in resistance training is low. Compared with other sports resistance training will often have a lower rate of injury see table one.

The common contributing factors of the injuries were:

  • Lack of qualified supervision
  • Poor training technique

Both of these factors are easy to control. You need to ensure a qualified individual is taking the sessions. They should be able to ensure that;

  • appropriate equipment is used,
  • the athletes are using suitable weights and,
  • the athletes technique is correct

It would be a great start for anyone interested in running a resistance program for children and adolescents to have a read of my full article and look up the recommendations by Faigenbaum and Myer (2010) and American Academy of Pediatrics (2008).

Please leave your thoughts, by posting either in the comment section here, or on The Sports Physiotherapist website.

Hamill, B. (1994). Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 8(1):53-57.

Faigenbaum, A. D., & Myer, G. D. (2010). Resistance training amoung young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. British Jounrnal of Sports Medicine, 44, 56-63.