Blog: Youth Resistance Training

Category: Sport, General

Should you let your child lift weights in the gym?

There have been long-standing concerns surrounding resistance training at youth. These traditionally stem from the theory that resistance training alters growth rate and eventual growth height. However, contemporary research has proved these suppositions to be false, and has shown that resistance training can be beneficial so long as exercises are suitably prescribed and supervised [1,2].

Recently, a newspaper article titled “Should you let your child lift weights in the gym?” was posted in The Times following pictures of David Beckham’s 12-year-old son weightlifting. Despite the evidence, the article referred to those traditional beliefs, stating that:

“Children shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting before they finish puberty, at around 15 or 16. Otherwise you can cause damage to ligaments, tendons and bones that are malleable and not fully formed” – Celebrity Trainer.

As the article may have raised concerns, this blog will highlight the benefits of youth resistance training and the practices in place for safe and effective exercise prescription at Marlborough College.

Youth Resistance Training

Early exposure to resistance training has been shown to:

•          Enhance performance indices such as jumping, throwing and sprinting

•          Reduce injury risk

•          Improve general health and well-being

These advantages are a reflection of informed training regimen, inclusive of rest and recovery.

Marlborough’s main sports for Michaelmas Term are hockey and rugby; two high risk sports in terms of injury incidence. Although it is impossible to eliminate sports related injuries, youth who are prescribed systematic and well-rounded training are up to 80% less likely to become injured [1]. This is due to improved movement competency and muscular strength, building resilient athletes prepared to tolerate the demands of physical activity. In addition, as opposed to previous thoughts, moderate-to-high intensity exercise has actually been shown to assist bone development during childhood and adolescence [2]!

Resistance Training at Marlborough College

At Marlborough College, resistance training is set and supervised by qualified strength and conditioning coaches with a sound understanding of the interaction between growth, maturation and training. Exercises are set to meet the needs of the pupils and the needs of the sports that they participate in. As well as this, to prepare the students for exercise outside of school, fundamental movement patterns and effective warm up and recovery strategies are taught in Exercise and Sports Sciences lessons. These strategies are all in place with the aim of facilitating long term athletic development and success.

With global youth inactivity at a worryingly high level (possibly due to increased technological use and less time spent playing), children are underprepared for sport and general physical activity. Because of this, perhaps concerns should be less to do with what youth are doing in the gym and more to do with what they aren’t doing!

James Davies
Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach

Ruth Taylor and Joshua Wall
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches



1.  Bergeron, M.F., Mountjoy, M., Armstrong, N., Chia, M., Côté, J., Emery, C.A., Faigenbaum, A., Hall, G., Kriemler, S., Léglise, M. and Malina, R.M (2015). International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49 (13), pp.843-851.

2.  Lloyd, R.S., Faigenbaum, A.D., Stone, M.H., Oliver, J.L., Jeffreys, I., Moody, J.A., Brewer, C., Pierce, K.C., McCambridge, T.M., Howard, R. and Herrington, L (2014). Position statement on youth resistance training: the 2014 International Consensus. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48 (7), pp.498-505.

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