Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Resistance Training

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Resistance training (RT) refers to a method of physical conditioning that causes muscles to contract against an external load or force (Sundell, 2011). The goal of RT is to progressively overload the musculoskeletal system. In order to do this, tools such as weighted machines, dumbbells or barbells are typically utilized (McNeely, Armstrong, 2002).

Health Benefits

RT can promote substantial benefits in physical fitness and health related factors (Pollock et al, 2000). For decades, RT has been accepted as a means for improving and maintaining muscular strength, endurance, power, coordination and muscle mass (Polluck et al., 2000). Traditionally, public health guidelines primarily focus on aerobic based exercise and its enhancement of cardiorespiratory fitness (Polluck et al., 2000). Only in recent years has the positive relationship between RT and health factors/chronic disease been well documented (Sundell, 2011). In terms of chronic illness, studies show the direct benefits of RT on preventing osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain and many other debilitating disabilities (Winett and Carpinelli, 2001). Additionally, further research links RT to reductions in risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers (Winett and Carpinelli, 2001).

Health Benefits for Youth

RT can be a safe, effective and beneficial method of conditioning for adolescents and preadolescents (Faigenbaum et al, 1996). Recent studies show that RT may have multiple physiologic benefits for youth, may promote adherence to regular exercise and may promote positive attitude and enjoyment toward lifetime physical activity (Dorgo et al, 2009). A major benefit of RT for youth is the prevention of risk factors leading to diabetes, as the prevalence of diabetes among today’s youth are skyrocketing due to poor nutrition and inactivity (Faigenbaum, 2002). Physical training can be an effective tool in reducing insulin resistance syndrome (IRS) in obese adolescents (13-16 year olds) (Allison et al., 2002). It is important to note in this study that those participants in the “high intensity” training group saw the most dramatic improvement (Allison et al., 2002). However, studies have yet to fully resolve the effects of intensity of exercise on children and youth (Payne et al., 2013).

Risks for Youth

RT, especially if involving weight lifting, has been considered dangerous for children and at risk of limiting their growth (Barbieri and Zaccagni, 2013). However, the American College of Sports Medicine highlights that there is no current scientific evidence of RT restricting growth in adolescents and preadolescents (Barbieri and Zaccagni, 2013). In fact, it is now recognized that epiphyseal plate injuries are much more likely to occur during common youth sports than during properly executed RT (Armstrong and McNeely, 2002). Like any other form of physical activity there are associated risks of injury, all of which can be diminished following a small set of suggestions: proper supervision from adults, warm up and stretch before lifting, focus on technique rather than load and a progressive/gradual increase in resistance with acquired technique (Barbieri and Zaccagni, 2013).

Resistance Training Modalities

For most athletes and fitness enthusiasts, RT is a main component of their overall training program. However in order to determine the most beneficial type of RT for an individual, a specific physiological adaptation should be pursued (Fleck and Kraemer, 2014). In regards to children, the most commonly trained physiological adaptations include strength and plyometric training (Fleck and Kraemer, 2014).

Strength Training

To train strength and power, muscular force is applied against some kind of resistance (Barbieri & Zaccagni, 2013). The optimal characteristics of a strength/power RT program involve the use of both concentric and eccentric muscle actions and the use of both single- and multi- joint exercises (Fleck and Kraemer, 2014). In most cases, if the individual is healthy, the resistance is provided by free weights or by weighted machines (Barbieri & Zaccagni, 2013). This type of RT is usually adopted in sport, as the load can be continually increased according to the athlete’s strength (Barbieri & Zaccagni, 2013). Additionally, strength training can be an important method of rehabilitation from injuries, especially those requiring surgery (Polluck et al, 2000). Effectively designed resistance-training programs can enhance the strength and power characteristics of adolescents beyond that produced by normal growth and development (Falk & Tenenbaum, 1996). These strength gains have been seen using a variety of RT approaches: from single-set workouts with weighted machines to multiple-set workouts with free weights (Benson et al, 2007).

Plyometric Training

Plyometric training is a form of RT that typically involves high-impact jumping exercises (Barbieri & Zaccagni, 2013). Unlike traditional strength training exercises, plyometric training conditions the body through dynamic movements, which involve rapid eccentric and concentric muscle action (Faigenbaum et al., 2009). Plyometric training programs are commonly employed in sports where power is a main determinant of performance (Barbieri & Zaccagni, 2013). Studies show that plyometric training can be a safe modality of RT for the youth if prescribed and implemented appropriately (Faigenbaum et al., 2009). The typical movement patterns of children include rapid jumping and leaping, which can be considered plyometric (Faigenbaum et al., 2009). While considered safe, there is potential for injury to occur if the intensity and volume of training exceed the ability of the participant (Faigenbaum et al., 2009).

Sex Differences and Youth

There have been limited studies that examine the separate effects of RT on male and female adolescents (Falk and Tenenbaum, 1996). While research is scarce, up to date statistics show a striking similarity between boys and girls response to RT (Dahab & McCambridge, 2009). However, it is important to note the critical findings from these studies.

Global Female Statistics

A study of particular importance came from Hewett et al (2006), which showed that a RT program including both strength and plyometric exercises may reduce the frequency of sports-related ACL injuries in girls. Additionally, RT has proven to stimulate transient increases in bone mineral density in girls (Blimkie et al, 1996).

Global Male Statistics

One study by Cunha et al (2014) indicates that RT programs can improve muscle mass and increase fat mass in adolescent boys. The results of this study reinforce the clinical assumption of RT being an effective way to increase boys physical activity level and prevent metabolic disease (Cunha et al., 2014)

Resistance training and movement experiences

The physical immaturity of youth has been a primary concern for parents and coaches of children looking to adopt RT programs. However, in recent years professionals have put to rest several myths involving growth plate injuries and soft-tissue injuries as a result of RT (Dehab and McCambridge, 2009). For youth, a properly implemented RT program can improve performance in sport/life activities and at the same time reduce risk of injury (Fleck and Kraemer, 2014). Improved performance not only helps a child excel in their current sport or physical endeavor, but it also can facilitate smoother transitions into future activities. Functional movements require specific levels of strength to perform and RT can ensure those strength levels are reached at an early age, promoting early development. In relation to injury, RT can assist youths to pursue and maintain athletic careers for the long term. For example, one study by Askling et al (2013) showed that properly implemented preseason strength training greatly reduced hamstring injury occurrence in soccer players.

Practical application/recommendations

Prior to youth participation in any RT related activity, parents and coaches must understand established training principles and fully appreciate the physical/psychosocial uniqueness of children and adolescents (Dehab and McCambridge, 2009). While a minimal age for RT has not been established, it is widely accepted by professionals in the field of physiology that if a child is ready for sport activities then he or she is ready for some type of RT (Dehab and McCambridge, 2009). In addition to a thorough understanding of youth training techniques, it is recommended that each child be ran through a medical examination prior to participation in RT (McNeely and Armstrong, 2002). This will rule out an increased susceptibility to injury due to biomechanical abnormality and also identify any underlying medical conditions that may be worsened with RT. While children are active in the weight room or RT from home, there must be a qualified supervisor there at all times (Dehab and McCambridge, 2009). Qualified adults should again have an understanding of youth RT guidelines and uniqueness of children and adolescents (Dehab and McCambridge, 2009). Additionally, the parents, coaches, personal trainers and teachers should develop an appropriate philosophy about training that is related to the needs and goals of the child (Dehab and McCambridge, 2009). An individualized program will increase motivation and effects of RT (McNeely and Armstrong, 2002). Following an educational lesson on technique and weight room etiquette, the child will then be ready to participate in a RT program. It is important to keep training fun and varied. This will maximize the child’s interest and positive outlook toward RT as well as increase the chance of continued physical training later in life (McNeely and Armstrong, 2002). With technique being the main cause of injury from RT, it is important that the beginning stages of a youth training program focus on the technical aspects of lifting. The supervisor should ensure focus is on form and practicing each movement until technical proficiency is established (McNeely and Armstrong, 2002). Only weights that do not result in a break in form should be utilized. Therefore, the use of bodyweight exercises and light dumbbell movements can be beneficial in the early stages of a program (McNeely and Armstrong, 2002). Once coordination and movement patterning is established, moderate weights with higher (8-15) rep ranges have been proven to increase both maximal strength and endurance more effectively than high weights with low rep ranges (Faigenbaum et al., 1999). While formal routines can be effective, in the introductory stages of training children are more likely to pick up a skill if the training sessions remain dynamic and entertaining (McNeely and Armstrong, 2002).


Allison, J. , Barbeua, P. , Gutin, B. , Kang, H. , Le, N., Lemmon, C. R., Litaker, M., S. Owens, S. (2002) Physical training improves insulin resistance syndrome markers in obese adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 34 (12), 1920-1927

Armstrong, L., McNeely, E. (2002). Strength training for children: a review and recommendations. Physical and Health Education Journal, 68. Retrieved from

Askling, M.C., Tengvar, M., Thorstensson, A. (2013). Acute hamstring injuries in Swedish elite football: a prospective randomized controlled clinical trial comparing two rehabilitation protocols. British Journal of Sports Medicine. DOI 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092165

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Cunha, G., Lorenzi, T., Sapata, K., Lopes, A. L., Gaya, A. C., & Oliveira, A. (2011). Effect of biological maturation on maximal oxygen uptake and ventilatory thresholds in soccer players: An allometric approach. Journal of Sports Science, 29, 1029–1039.

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