When to Start?

 

Can Athlete's Start Strength Training at 8 Years of Age?

By Mike Caza,
CSCS Director of Performance

We always hear the question, how old should an athlete be before they start to lift or strength train? Athletes can start strength training at 8 years of age as long as specific parameters are followed that will progress the development of the athlete and not hinder it. The concern most parents and coaches have is that athletes will get hurt if they strength train at too young of an age. Concerns about growth plate damage, lifting too much weight, lifting with improper form, poorly designed strength programs and poor coaching from unqualified individuals are relevant concerns. If specific parameters are followed and a credible coach is training the athlete, the likelihood of injury is very low and the benefit of greater strength required for better sports performance and reduced injury risk is very high. At PSC, athletes are divided into groups based on their age and developmental level. Within these groups, there are set strength training parameters that we follow so that the exercise selection, weight used (as a percentage of body weight), set and rep range and application of proper technique is specific to the level of the athlete. Below are some general guidelines we use when designing programs:

Age Exercise Selection Weight Used (% of body weight) Days/Wk Set/Rep Range
8-11 Novice BW up to 10% 1-2 8-12
12-14 Intermediate BW- 75% Body Weight 2-3 2-10
15-18 Int/Adv BW- 150% Body Weight 2-4 2-10
19-up Int/Adv Up to 300% Body Weight 3-5 2-8

Our 8-11 year old athletes primarily strength train using only their body weight as resistance since their body is still very young and developing, we choose simple exercises that are fun and easy for them to do. We will work up to 10% of their body weight on certain strength exercises so an 80lb athlete will work up to using an 8lb dumbbell or medicine ball over time. Our 12-14 year old athletes are hitting the puberty stage and this needs to be addressed since their hormones are starting to come in. The exercises we implement for them are progressively more difficult than the novice level exercises the 8- 11 year old athletes go through. Over the course of 3-12 months there is an incremental progression in strength. In other words when a 12-14 year old athlete starts training, we do not jump up to 75% of their body weight in the first two weeks of training, we slowly build up to 75% of their body weight. This can take up to 1 year to accomplish. Athletes that are 15 and older can start to implement advanced level exercises depending on their developmental level and maturation. We have worked with 16 year old athletes that had to start on Novice level strength training exercises because they matured late and some of them have never strength trained before whereas we have worked with 13 year old athletes that were developmentally ahead of the curve and could progress quicker to Intermediate and Advanced level exercises.

It is OK for athletes to strength train starting at 8 years of age as long as the above mentioned parameters are followed. Unfortunately, a number of athletes get hurt because they do not follow any parameters and are influenced by what others are doing instead of what is right for them. If the proper exercises are selected with the right amount of weight, sets and reps and the training is overseen by a coach with professional credentials, an athlete can start to maximize their strength gains and become more durable which leads to reduced injury risks, improved sports performance and increased confidence levels.

 

Mike Caza spent 3 years as a member of the Canadian National track team where his experiences allowed him to compete worldwide on 4 different continents and be mentored by some of the top coaches internationally. Mike's athletic experiences combined with the in depth knowledge gained over the years has enabled him and the PSC Staff to devise the most comprehensive athlete conditioning program in the area. For more information on PSC training, contact the training office at (330) 487-0810 or online at www.pscfit.com.

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