Home » Health & Safety Channel » Expert Panel Issues Resistance Training Guidelines For Children and Adolescents

Expert Panel Issues Resistance Training Guidelines For Children and Adolescents

The 2014 International Consensus position statement says childhood ideal time to begin supervised program

Training volume and intensity (definition and relationship)

~ Two key training variables (routinely adjusted within a training session or overall phase of training, depending on the primary training goal of the individual):

  1. Volume is total number of times an exercise is performed within a training session multiplied by the resistance used (kilograms/pounds)
  2. Intensity is the resistance that must be overcome during a repetition. 

~ Volume and intensity inversely related: the greater the load (intensity), the lower the number of repetitions that can be completed (volume).

~ Volume and intensity considered synergistically: when prescribing resistance training, both volume and intensity must be considered in order to maximize physiological adaptation and minimize risk of injury.

  • Excessive intensity (e.g. external loading) at the expense of correct technique may lead to acute injury.
  • Prescribing excessive volume of training over a training block may induce a state of overtraining.

~ Appropriate training intensity is a percentage of one repetition-maximum (1 RM)

  • Routinely used in pediatric research settings and youth sport training facilities but youth fitness professionals may use an alternative means of assessing strength;
  • Children and adolescents must be able to demonstrate sound technical competency irrespective of the RM load or test selected.

Increased volume and intensity over time 

~ Use of 1RM measurement (actual or predicted) to determine training intensities typically unnecessary for untrained or sedentary youth with a low-training age and poor technical competency first begin to participate in formal resistance training.

~ Start novices out with low volume (1-2 sets) and low-moderate training intensities (≤60%1 RM) for a range of exercises and movement patterns.

~ External load can be increased over time after the athlete has used an appropriate repetition range to develop technical competency and acquire a base level of adaptation.

~ When first beginning multijoint resistance training exercises (e.g. squatting) children should perform fewer repetitions (1-3) and be provided real-time feeback after each repetition to ensure safe and correct movement technique (especially true for weightlifting exercises).

~ Progress once a child is competent in basis exercise technique, for example, to 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions with a low-moderate training intensity (≤ 80% 1 RM)

~ Further progress to periodic phases of lower repetition ranges (≤6) and higher external loads (≥ 85% 1 RM) in training as training age and athletic competency increases (again with the proviso that technical competency remains).

Important note: not all exercises need to be performed for the same number of sets and repetitions within a training session. A qualified professional, however, must observe and monitor for the effects of accumulated fatigue during the training session to minimize the risk of fatigue-induced breakdown in technique, which may predispose youth to training-related injury (a recent study found that nearly 8 in 10 (77.2%) of acute resistance training-related injuries in youth and adults are accidental, and that most are avoidable with appropriate supervision, sensible training progression based on technical competency and a safe training environment). 

~ Frequency and amount of feedback will vary.  Depending on the learning environment, qualified professionals will need to provide feedback to ensure that technical competency is maintained throughout each set of the training program, the frequency and mode of which will depend to a large degree on the number of individuals training, type of exercise being performed and the stage of learning and personality traits of the youth involved (for example, when coaching a novice, constructive feedback may be most helpful if it is provided after each repetition).