> Sports participation has become a major cause of serious injury among youth.

> Sports activities are the second most frequent cause of injury for both male and female adolescents.

>- Each year it is estimated that more than five million children seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms because of sports injuries.

>- Most sports injuries are preventable.The NYSSF voices valid concerns about safety. By following the safety guidelines we'll present, most injuries can be prevented.

When we were kids, the general prevailing wisdom was that lifting weights could either stunt your growth or damage your skeleton. While we now know that this just isn't so, even incorrect pearls of wisdom are hard to shake. The primary reason that people worry about weight training with children is that their growth plates (the center of growth in the long bones of children) are still active and may be damaged with weight training. The fact is that in supervised weight-training programs, we know of no reported bone growth-plate injuries to preadolescent participants. As we've said, injuries come in unsupervised settings, where horseplay and bad form dominate—not where kids are taught proper form. However, before starting any program, have your child undergo a physical exam just to clear him or her of any problems that may exist that could be aggravated by a lifting program.

To ensure that preadolescents and adolescents remain injury-free in weight-training programs, you should follow these guidelines established by the ACSM:

>- Remember that children are children; don't expect them to follow commands like adults do. Make the fun quotient high for them. The weight room isn't the place for playing around, but it need not be a silent, solemn place void of any pleasure.

> Teach proper weight-training techniques for all movements as well as proper breathing techniques.

>- Make sure all exercises are performed slowly and smoothly.

>- Do not use a weight that the lifter cannot use for at least eight repetitions. Overly heavy weight can cause damage to the bone growth plate.

> Don't allow any repetition to be done to the point of momentary muscle fatigue.

> As progress occurs, increase the number of repetitions, from 8 to 10 to 12, before you increase the amount of weight.

> Perform one to two sets of 8 to 10 different exercises (with 8 to 12 reps). Make sure that all major muscle groups are included.

> Limit sessions to twice per week and encourage other forms of exercise and play.

>- Use multijoint exercises like pressing movements rather than one-joint exercises such as flyes.

> Always make sure that every training session is closely supervised by appropriately trained personnel.

> Machines may be preferable for the sake of safety. When using dumbbells or barbells, make sure that a spotter is always present.

> Never perform any maximal or competitive lifts. That's a sure way to court injury.

> Exercises that use body weight as resistance (such as push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and crunches) are excellent.

Here's a sample program for teenagers. As with other suggested programs, there's some flexibility built in, but remember to avoid exercises such as the bench press and military press, which can be dangerous unless a trustworthy spotter is available. In addition, because of the complexity and potential stress of the exercise, we do not recommend the use of deadlifts or squats for teens.

Body Part




Leg extension

Leg curl


Pull-ups or lat pull downs


Push-ups or dumbbell bench press


Dumbbell military press


Concentration curls


Triceps push downs



Reverse crunches

Oblique crunches

Here's another issue to consider: If the youngster is lifting to prepare for a particular sport, it may be appropriate to modify the program. Refer back to Chapter 25, "Lift Well, Play Hard," for suggestions on what exercises to include in sport-specific programs.

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Jry /

Weight a Minute

Strength training for teens and adolescents should never be competitive, and maxing out should never be part of one's program. Participants must understand that while lifting can be fun, safety needs to be taken seriously.

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