Some of the common myths about resistance training dispelled!
Due to the growing demands, the decreasing age of elitism and peak performance in modern sport; athletes today are asked to perform at higher levels and to improve at a faster rate than ever before. As a direct result of these increasing demands; resistance training has become one of the most popular and rapidly evolving modes of enhancing athletic performance.
Nevertheless, of all training methods there is probably more controversy and myth associated with resistance training than any other when it comes to young and developing athletes.
However, the evidence and claims to support these controversies are outdated, often anecdotal and/or non-existent!
Myth 1: Resistance training is about lifting heavy weights and ‘working out’ in the gym
Resistance training is simply training where the athlete is required to perform some athletic movements while overcoming some resistance.
This resistance can be provided by working with heavy weights in a gym, yes but this is an advanced form and athletes should develop proper form and technical skill long before this stage of training.
Resistance can also be provided by the athlete’s own body weight and it is these body weight exercises that must provide the resistance for young and beginner athletes, allowing them to master the skills needed to train at a more advanced level
Myth 2: Resistance training causes loss of flexibility
This belief is long standing and has lead some coaches to avoid using resistance training with their athletes for fear that they will become ‘big and bulky’, resulting in lower levels of performance.
Studies looking at resistance training show that flexibility can actually increase or remain unchanged without performing any flexibility exercises, but when flexibility and resistance training are combined; the increase in flexibility is significant.
Think of an Olympic gymnast; probably the most flexible athlete there is and also an athlete that trains with an incredible amount of resistance training.
Myth 3: Resistance training will stunt an athlete’s growth
Traditional fears of growth stunting due to resistance training are associated with growth plate injuries.
The growth plate is the weak link in the young athlete’s developing skeleton and it is susceptible to injury. These injuries pose a serious threat to the normal development of the young athlete as their bone growth may be halted.
However, the trauma needed to cause growth plate injury is massive and much more likely to occur from falls or the repetitive stresses of running rather than from resistance training exercises.
Current research indicates that resistance training, following correct technique, without excessive loading (weight plates) will not have an adverse effect on growth patterns.
In Fact; resistance training will more likely have a positive influence on a young athlete’s growth as resistance training is important for the development of healthy bones.
I would mention though that heavy lifting carries an increased risk of injury and should only be introduced to an advanced, mature athlete’s training programme following years of preparation.
Myth 4: Athletes should wait until they are at least 16 to use resistance training
This idea that young and developing athletes should not perform resistance training until puberty is quite common, but again unfounded. The reasoning for this suggestion is often that resistance training stunts growth, but as we know this is of course not true.
11 year old boys have been shown to benefit from resistance training and studies have even shown benefits in children as young as 6 years of age following resistance training!
The criteria to meet for beginning resistance training should not be based solely on age, but rather psychological maturity, biological development (known as maturation), technical skill and the training experiences of the athlete.