Is resistance training safe for young athletes, specifically minor hockey players? Yes, it is absolutely safe as long as the trainer is qualified and experience to instruct such a program involving resistance training.
So let’s start by understanding exactly what resistance training is. Basically, it involves some form of movement or exercise that resists an external force applied. There’s what’s called ‘open and closed chained exercises’ and according to the individual either of the two can be of benefit or a concern when considering the ability level of a young athlete. There is absolutely nothing dangerous with a young athlete/hockey player using their own body weight as a form of resistance when performing certain exercises. Adding any kind of external ‘open chained’ weight is still resistance training, but we must take into consideration the intensity of that load applied. For example, young hockey athletes need to squat in order to build up lower body strength. The only way to continually get stronger is to add an external load to one’s own body weight. It’s how we go about that which can be considered safe or not.
This whole non-sense of resistance training (or weight training) is dangerous for kid’s growth plates are absolutely absurd. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim and it’s based on nothing but an assumption. Whether a young athlete performs a squat using only their own body weight or added weight, it’s no more dangerous than doing simple push ups with a ten pound plate on their back, and both are resistance training. There’s a big misconception with this practice and no-one can seem to back up their claim, concern, or assumption that resistance training is dangerous for youth. If I had a young athlete perform a body weight squat while pressing a ten-pound medicine ball above his or her head, I don’t think anyone would consider a medicine ball being un-safe. But as soon as that athlete switches to a ten-pound dumbbell, all of a sudden it’s perceived as dangerous. Remember, the only safety concern depends on the level of intensity or amount of external load applied to the exercise.
One of the biggest concerns in my industry is young, inexperienced trainers claiming to be strength and conditioning coaches or ‘athletic trainers’ when they have no formal/professional or post-secondary education. I’m talking about some kind of Diploma or University Degree in Fitness and Health, Exercise Science, Human Kinetics, or Physiology and Anatomy. Your average weekend personal training certification is simply not good enough to qualify as an experienced youth athletic trainer. Parents need to take that into consideration so they know at the very least their son or daughter’s safety is in the hands of an experienced professional. I’ve seen it many, many times where players are getting hurt because of the incompetence of an unqualified trainer. It takes hours upon hours and a minimum of 10 years of practical experience to legitimately consider one-self as a professional athletic trainer or strength coach. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars it costs for continuing education courses, seminars and workshops in order to learn more and gain credible knowledge for what it takes to train young athletes.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no what you’re investing in, and learn the facts.
For more information of resistance training for youth please visit the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s website.