Weight Training In Young Athletes

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Weight training/Strength Training and/or Resistance Training (RT) has been criticized and is considered a controversial aspect of mode of exercising to improve performance in young athletes. Many see it as detrimental to young athlete’s health and development. However,  RT is nothing but a physical conditioning program that involves the use of resistance training methods to improve the ability of the athletes to resist or exert force. This can be attained in various ways (eg, use of machines, lifting free weights, using your own body weight, etc.). This mode of training aims at progressively increasing resistive loads to achieve desired muscle endurance, strength, power or a combination of the above (Myers, A. M et al, 2017)

Physical, Performance Related, and Physiological Effects

Numerous advantages of proper RT programmes include greater strength, decreased incidence of sports-related injuries, enhanced bone strength index (BSI), reduced risk of fracture, improved self-esteem, and increased interest in fitness. With inappropriate or subpar training routines, there are risks. Efficient supervision, and specialized weight training are components of successful training programmes.

Appropriate age to start weight training

Australian Strength and Conditioning Position Stand states that the earliest a child should start training is 6 years of age. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and Dahab and McCambridge have determined the age this is reached as being 7-8 years old. With the brain maturation, the neuromuscular system starts developing as well and by the age of 12, the majority of the cerebral circuits for basic movement abilities will undoubtedly be established.

Hence, introduction and development of advanced skill levels, especially those related to strength training, are likely to occur during these years. Children as early as five years old have demonstrated the benefits of strength exercise. The training must include a suitable warm-up, cool-down, and the right selection of activities for the child or adolescent’s age.

Athletes between the ages of 6 and 9, can engage themselves in a supervised program incorporating body weight and light resistance training exercises. Those between 9 and 12 years, can Begin to incorporate some free weights and machine weight exercises and progress with the same till 15 years of age. From 15 to 18 once the foundation is built, focus on advanced programming (Duhig, S. J, 2013).

Weight Training Recommendation

The majority of studies have found that resistance training should be done at least twice a week on different days because doing it only once a week may lead to less than ideal adaptations. It’s important to focus on recovery between sessions to prevent any overuse or growth plate injuries. Training intensity depends on the age of the child. The intensity is based around 6-15RM or 50-85% 1RM.
Following table can be used as a guideline shared by ASCA.
The training volume can be progressed by adding more sets of a particular exercise, or in general addition of new exercises.

Age Training Intensity
6-9 years 15 reps (body weight)
9-12 years 10-15 reps with 60% of 1 RM weight
12 -15 years 8-15 reps with 70% of 1 RM weight
15 -18 years 6-15 reps with 80% of 1 RM weight



Myer, G. D., Lloyd, R. S., Brent, J. L., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2013). How young is “too young” to start training?. ACSM’s health & fitness journal, 17(5), 14.

Myers, A. M., Beam, N. W., & Fakhoury, J. D. (2017). Resistance training for children and adolescents. Translational pediatrics, 6(3), 137.

Duhig, S. J. (2013). Strength training for the young athlete. J Aust Strength Cond, 21, 5-13.

Pierce, K. C., Hornsby, W. G., & Stone, M. H. (2022). Weightlifting for children and adolescents: a narrative review. Sports Health, 14(1), 45-56.