There are a lot of questions surrounding strength training, especially where children are concerned. The risk of injury is probably the primary concern of any parent or coach who has a child entering strength training programs. Many parents and coaches are hesitant to begin strength training with juniors for fear of damaging the bones and possibly stunting growth.
Any activity or exercise comes with some level of injury risk, but youth strength training can be safe and effective if a competent coach who is skilled in program design supervises every training session. Proper technique must be taught and is required in every repetition of every exercise. I strongly recommend that you do not try to train your child without professional supervision. If you are experienced enough in the gym to proceed with a junior program, ask yourself two questions first;
“Is the child physically and emotionally mature enough to engage in a strength training program?” and “If you are using machines or equipment, is it sized appropriately for a child?” Players need to show the maturity, both physically and mentally to advance into a weight training program, and most equipment in training facilities are sized to meet the needs of adults and not children, Make sure you can adjust any equipment to the size of a child. If not, wait until the child grows into the equipment.
To answer a question you might be thinking, yes, strength training does work for juniors. If the program is properly run and supervised, the child’s motor control and strength are increased by teaching the muscles how to work together in a coordinating manner, which leads to improvement in strength without increased muscle mass along with an improved self-image and self-confidence.
Steven White is the author of…
Teaching Tennis: Protocol for Instructors