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Weight Training in Youth-Growth, Maturation, and Safety: An Evidence-Based Review

Malina, Robert M PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: November 2006 - Volume 16 - Issue 6 - p 478-487
doi: 10.1097/
Thematic Issue

Objective: To review the effects of resistance training programs on pre- and early-pubertal youth in the context of response, potential influence on growth and maturation, and occurrence of injury.

Design: Evidence-based review.

Methods: Twenty-two reports dealing with experimental resistance training protocols, excluding isometric programs, in pre- and early-pubertal youth, were reviewed in the context of subject characteristics, training protocol, responses, and occurrence of injury.

Results: Experimental programs most often used isotonic machines and free weights, 2- and 3-day protocols, and 8- and 12-week durations, with significant improvements in muscular strength during childhood and early adolescence. Strength gains were lost during detraining. Experimental resistance training programs did not influence growth in height and weight of pre- and early-adolescent youth, and changes in estimates of body composition were variable and quite small. Only 10 studies systematically monitored injuries, and only three injuries were reported. Estimated injury rates were 0.176, 0.053, and 0.055 per 100 participant-hours in the respective programs.

Conclusion: Experimental training protocols with weights and resistance machines and with supervision and low instructor/participant ratios are relatively safe and do not negatively impact growth and maturation of pre- and early-pubertal youth.

From the Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX.

Reprints: Robert M. Malina, PhD, 10735 FM 2668, Bay City, TX 77414 (e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.