Youth Strength and Conditioning - Why It Matters

Jul 10, 2013 - 
Sarah Lang-Rodean BS, CSCS
ECHN Strength & Conditioning Coach


The growing popularity of youth strength and conditioning programs is not at all a waning fad. In fact, young athletes greatly benefit from strength and conditioning, when performed in a safe, age-specific, developmentally appropriate manner.

Three important concepts of youth strength and conditioning are as follows:
  1. Develop physical literacy for youth by promoting a long-term approach to quality daily physical education and daily intermittent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
  2. Promote positive mental and psychosocial development as well as physical development with a properly designed strength and conditioning program.
  3. Utilize The Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (2009) for guidelines on strength and conditioning programs that emphasize a long-term approach to developing strength and power.
Training strategies for youth must be carefully planned based on the dynamic interrelationships of numerous variables such as number of sports being played throughout the year and during the same season, environment, ethnicity, self-efficacy, focus, athletic abilities, etc. The long-term athletic development (LTAD) model is a generic guide that can be used to plan the sport/activity specific plan. LTAD heightens coaches’ awareness that the focus should not be on early sport specialization but that a plan should be implemented to meet the individual needs of young athletes as they develop. The LTAD-type program should contain developmentally-appropriate strength and conditioning as well as important elements of positive conditioning, active play, and unstructured play.

The environment in which training occurs needs to be proactive: fundamental motor skill development must be taught, coached, and assessed; positive feedback must continually and honestly be provided to youth so that skill acquisition and the positive benefits of strength and conditioning are always reinforced, and never should children be given exercise as punishment.

Resistance training for youth is safe and efficacious so long as important NSCA guidelines are followed. For example, participants must be able to listen to and follow directions, there must be quality supervision at all times, and exercise progressions must be developmentally appropriate. The focus of the prepubescent resistance training program is on the development of healthy habits of safe resistance training and the focus on technical performance over the amount of resistance lifted.


Source: Howard, Rick M.Ed., CSCS,*D. Why youth strength and conditioning matters. NSCA Youth Training. http://www.nsca.com/Education/E-learning/Why-Youth-Strength-and-Conditioning-Matters (2012)


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