Children should not be Strength Training, or should they?

Willows Strength & Conditioning

Children should not do strength training, or should they?


I want to discuss the myths and benefits of Strength & Conditioning for children. In my experience I often hear that strength training is not appropriate for children. I have frequently heard that strength training can make children bulky and slow, it stunts their growth and lifting weights can damage growth plates. What if I said that these statements were false? Lets put it another way. Why would a Strength & Conditioning Coach give a child or athlete exercises that make them slow at running, too big to run, make them short and stop them growing! Because all athletes are far too tall these days? Really?? Many studies, including research from the UKSCA (United Kingdom Strength Conditioning Association), promote strength training as a key element to a child’s physical development.

Over the past 15 years or so sport science has made some huge developments in the way we train people. Hundreds and hundreds of studies have provided essential data along side years and years of quality coaching experience. Strength & Conditioning now plays a huge role in professional sport and has become a key area for the development of the youth athlete.

What is Strength & Conditioning (S&C)?

Strength & Conditioning is not bodybuilding, it is not strongman training and it is not a circuit of tyre flips, bench pressing and deadlifts. S&C is a cutting edge and specialist method of training. Strength & Conditioning should develop all aspects of an athlete. These should include exercises that improve mobility, stability, plyometrics, speed, power, strength and fitness. For example exercises such as foam rolling, static stretching, pre-activation, dynamic warm up, running mechanics, hopping, jumping, throwing, sprinting, derivatives of the Olympic lifts, strength exercises and fitness drills.

Strength & Conditioning for Youth Football

Strength & Conditioning should aim to do 3 things:

  1. Reduce the risk of injury whilst training
  2. Reduce the risk of injury whilst performing
  3. Increase sports performance

In some of our children’s football, rugby and athletic clubs outdated exercises are still being used. Have you seen your son/daughter doing sit-ups or crunches? These exercises are almost archaic and can actually lead to discogenic problems. In other words, repeated bending of the spine increases risk of disc herniation. These type of exercises may damage your child. I have personally seen outdated programmes given to many athletes. I find this extremely disconcerting.

Football players get many injuries whilst playing in a match. I’m not talking about a bruise i.e. an acute injury but a chronic injury e.g. knee pain, hip pain or low back pain. I have been involved in training grass roots to professional footballers and applying S&C methods is an effective method of reducing these common injuries. Whilst at Lincoln City we went through a rigorous pre-season with no chronic injuries. This is practically unheard of.

You might ask should my child be strength training? Everyone needs to earn the right to do strength training by possessing adequate movement. I advocate and stress that a child, or anyone for that matter, should be able to competently perform a movement and be stable before they should make it harder by adding a load or weight.

Children and adolescents develop at different ages. Studies have shown that specific stages of a youth’s development dictate what Strength & Conditioning should focus on. For example between the ages of 6-8 for a girl and 7-9 for a boy, children should develop multi directional movement and speed. Lifting weights is perhaps not fundamental for their development at this stage.

Strength & Conditioning is the foundation for everyone and all sports

Strength & Conditioning is a fun and effective way of getting your child to do exercise. I believe all children and adolescents whether they play football, rugby or not should be exercising. The huge popularity of the London 2012 Olympics has shown that different sports may require taller or heavier athletes. Our children can have certain characteristics for certain sports. Strength & Conditioning provides the foundations to increase the potential for a healthier life and maybe becoming our next gold medalist!

Those athletes that possess strength show other qualities. Let me explain. To be fast you have to be strong. The fastest athletes are the strongest. To have power you must have strength and speed. Improving your strength will also increase your fitness. You will be able to push harder on every stride, turn and accelerate quicker and this extra strength means you can work at a higher intensity.

Mindset: Support Positive Change

I have been using these Strength & Conditioning methods with a wide range of people, not just athletes. I have found that it has made huge improvements to people’s lives. My focus is to apply these methods to our children, the next generation of athletes.

Strength & Conditioning at Collingham F.C.

I am a father of four children and live in Collingham. I play football for the Men’s team and I too have concerns for my children and want the best for them.

I want to help promote Strength & Conditioning as an innovative method of exercise that helps combat many issues mentioned above. I am delighted and proud that Collingham FC offers Strength & Conditioning at their club. At present I do a session available to anyone from the age of 14 years to men’s. I feel that this club has great potential and has given me the opportunity by offering you Strength & Conditioning.

If you would like to ask me any questions regarding this article please contact me on 07720 572 533 or email:

Ian Willows

Strength & Conditioning Coach


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