By Melissa Gaynor, A-GAME SPORTS Strength & Conditioning Coach

What is strength and conditioning?
Strength and conditioning is the teaching of physical and physiological development to improve movement patterns and motor skills to help promote increases in strength, power, endurance, coordination, overall sport performance, cardiovascular health, and neuromuscular adaptions.

Who is strength and conditioning for?
Anyone who is looking to enhance physical exercise and sport performance.

How old should my child be to begin strength training?
While there is no minimum age to begin strength training, children should be able to accept & follow directions, understand & respect basic safety considerations in a weight room environment, and when they have basic levels of balance and postural control, children are typically ready to begin strength training and conditioning.

Is strength and conditioning for a specific sport?
Strength and conditioning can be applied to any sport or physical motion. As a young athlete grows biologically and their chronological age increases, their training age will differ drastically from individual to individual, resulting in some children being more advanced than others earlier on or vice versa. A S&C program can be made sport specific, but isn’t necessary until athletes are older and are at a more advanced level with a solidified movement & motor skill foundation.

Will strength and conditioning stunt the growth of my child or have a negative affect on my child’s health?
While there are many negative stigmas associated with youth strength and conditioning training, there are many health benefits that positively influence overall fitness. When the body is placed under a heavier load[ex. resistance training] or performs an explosive movement with impact[ex. jump & land], bone density and bone mineral content will increase. Simply meaning, bones are stronger, denser, and less likely to break, therefore increasing overall bone and skeletal health. Developing proper movement patterns, basic techniques for running, jumping, landing, agility, and balance are all key components to building a solid foundation for a youth athlete. Having these skills and being able to further evolve them as biological (physical) development and chronological age rise, allows for the potential reduction in injury as athletes can grasp a better understanding of proper form and better movement mechanics, therefore having an overall positive impact on your child’s health.

Other Positive Affects of Strength and Conditioning 
On top of having a positive influence on body composition, less cardiovascular risk, reduction in body fat, strengthening bone, and working to enhance psychosocial well-being, strength and conditioning positively benefits young athletes as it has a great impact on self-esteem and self-confidence. Many young athletes struggle with comparisons to other children, especially at developmental rates of children who are the same age and play the same sports and S&C can work to bridge that gap and instill confidence in younger individuals.

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. NSCA. Baechle & Earle. Fourth Edition.