Should Youth Athletes Strength Train

Should Youth Athletes Strength Train?

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Background Resistance Training for Adolescents 

As athletics progress the temptation to start resistance training for adolescents and children increases. Resistance training in adolescents can improve power and sports performance. However, the impact of training on adolescent athletes is less researched.

Of the studies published, adolescent improvements after resistance training are believed to be secondary to improved motor performance skills, not hypertrophy.

Harries et al. reviewed the effectiveness of resistance training programs on muscular power and sports performance.

What was done

This was a review of the previously published literature on resistance training and adolescent athletes. Studies were eligible if they met the following criteria: (i) participants were aged 13–18 years and selected from a sports or athletic population (defined as participants who engaged in organized sports training); (ii) study involved the evaluation of a resistance training program (free weights, bodyweight resistance [including plyometrics], elastic tubing, machine weights, isokinetic devices) with an aim to improve sports performance where explosive power is necessary for success; (iii) study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT), quasi-experimental or single group pre-test/post-test design; (iv) included a quantitative objective measure of alactic power output (squat jump, vertical jump with double arm swing, standing long jump, sprint times, force plate power recordings); (v) published in English.  

To be included in the meta-analysis, studies had to meet the following additional criteria: (i) the study must have included a comparison group; (ii) must have assessed vertical jump (a vertical jump with double arm swing); and (iii) data were reported in means and standard deviations for the intervention and control groups at post-test.


In the studies, 21 assessed males only, 7 assessed only females, and two assessed both sexes. Thirty-four studies were reviewed and all but two reported at least one significant improvement in a power outcome resulting from resistance training.


It is clear that resistance training improves power in adolescent athletes and over half the studies reported improvement in sports performance, but limited objective evidence for this improvement was noted. There were numerous differences in the studies reviewed, but it was clear resistance training improved power in adolescent athletes.

It is not established which programs are most suitable for increasing muscular power and sports performance in adolescents.

Practical Implication

It is essential for adolescent athletes to perform resistance training in order to maximize power and motor control. However, the optimal mode of resistance training is unknown. Remember, ideal biomechanics and diverse movements are mandatory no matter the mode of resistance training.


  1. Harries SK, Lubans DR, Callister R. Resistance training to improve power and sports performance in adolescent athletes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sci Med Sport. 2012 Apr 25.

Originally Posted June 2012

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