Importance of Training in Youth Athletes

Should young athletes be training with weights?

Brian Dowling

7/23/20233 min read

black and silver dumbbells on black steel rack
black and silver dumbbells on black steel rack

Many of us grew up and were taught the dangers of weight training at a young age. We were told that it would stunt our growth, and cause injury. But how true is this?

Paul R. Stricker et al. 2020 did a review where they looked at the effects of resistance training in youth and adolescents. In the review, the authors did find that explosive contractions could increase the risk of avulsion fractures near the apophyseal area of the muscle-tendon attachment. However, not only are these risks significantly reduced when they are being coached by trained professionals who use appropriate strategies, but these are also common risks with children who participate in active play and sports in general. Throughout the review the authors mention that the improvements in strength with youth athletes have a wide array of positive effects such as; "improvements in health, fitness, rehabilitation of injuries, injury reduction, and physical literacy" (Stricker et al., 2020). Physical literacy is a big thing not a lot of people consider when thinking about the importance of resistance training in youth athletes. Some of the biggest changes in performance, for kids going through puberty especially, is learning how to properly and efficiently move/control their body. Not only will these improvements in strength and efficiency increase performance but it also plays a large role in reducing chronic overuse injuries. The findings of this review would seem to suggest that positives far out weigh the negatives of resistance training as long as the athlete is properly supervised and instructed.

Kraemer et al. 1989 is an older study but is cited by over 180 studies and laid pivotal ground work as to how modern scientists look at youth and resistance training. Some of the important takeaways of their research is that they although youth athletes can benefit greatly from resistance training, they are very different and cannot be trained the same as adults. They found that the individualization of their programming is key and that their physiological adaptions are quite different than those of an older athlete. Kraemer et al. found that youth athletes require lighter loads (>6rm) and that programs that last 10-20 weeks are best to elicit training adaptations. Similar to Stricker et al., they found that injury risk under proper supervision was quite low and that participating in a resistance training program lowers the risk of injury while participating in the athletes sport of choice.

Granacher et al. 2016 performed a scoping review where they looked at the effects of resistance training in youth athletes on fitness, performance, and long-term athlete development. They found that resistance training is important for "(i) stimulating athletic development, (ii) tolerating demands of long-term training and competition, and (iii) inducing long-term health promoting effects that are robust over time and track into adulthood" (Granacher et al. 2016). The results of their review show that as the athlete grows and matures, the intensity and specificity of their training has to increase. Balance training is a very important aspect of development (especially in the early stages) and must be included in all facets of an athletes training but complex training shows to have the greatest impact on athletics development. In simple terms, complex training focuses on both strength and power aspects of training by usually pairing an absolute strength movement with a plyometrics to elicit a post-activation potentiation response.

It is important to note that resistance training is not just lifting weights but can also include such things as body weight exercises, using bands, etc. In order for youth and adolescent athletes to train properly and safely it is crucial that they train with a professional that understands these concepts and how to efficiently program for them. Also, please note that there are a multitude of other factors that play a role in overall development of youth and adolescent athletes like sleep and nutrition that will be covered in future posts. Below I have included references to the research articles I directly drew upon in this article but I do encourage you to do your own further research on actual scientific literature and not just other blog posts that communicate someone's opinion without any scientific backing.


Granacher, U., Lesinski, M., Büsch, D., Muehlbauer, T., Prieske, O., Puta, C., Gollhofer, A., & Behm, D. G. (2016, April 18). Effects of resistance training in youth athletes on muscular fitness and athletic performance: A conceptual model for long-term athlete development. Frontiers.

Kraemer, W. J., Fry, A. C., Frykman, P. N., Conroy, B., & Hoffman, J. (1989, November 1). Resistance training and youth. Human Kinetics.

Stricker, P. R., Faigenbaum, A. D., & McCambridge, T. M. (2020, June 1). Resistance Training for Children and Adolescents.