Soccer-Specific, Sex-Specific Strength and Fitness Training Programs: What age is it OK to begin?

by CoachZ on January 31, 2009

Strength training: OK for kids when done correctly.

Strength training offers kids many benefits, but there are important caveats to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to know about soccer-specific, sex-specific strength and fitness training.

Strength and fitness training for kids? Definitely! Done properly, soccer-specific strength and fitness training offers many bonuses for young soccer-athletes, male and female. Sport-specific strength training is even a good idea for kids who simply want to look and feel better. In fact, strength training can put your child on a lifetime path to better health and fitness.

Strength training, not weightlifting!

For kids, light resistance and controlled movements are best. An individually-designed and professionally implemented program, one with a special emphasis on stretching, adequate warm-up, proper technique, and safety should be the primary focus. Your child can do many strength training exercises with his or her own body weight or inexpensive resistance tubing. Free weights and machine weights are other options.

It is possible to put a child through an entire workout without a weight, a machine, a band or a ball! With nothing more than a towel and his or her hands, a well-trained, experienced strength and fitness coach can put a child, or an adult for that matter, through a complete upper and lower body workout!

Don’t confuse sport-sex specific strength and fitness training with bodybuilding, Olympic weightlifting and/or powerlifting. The latter 2 forms of training are largely competition driven, with participants vying to “max out,” lifting heavier weights or building bigger muscles than those of other athletes. This can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven’t yet turned to bone (growth plates) — especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting greater amounts of weight.

For kids, what are the benefits of strength training?

Done properly, strength training can: Increase your child’s muscle strength and endurance; Help protect your child’s muscles and joints from injury;
And strength training isn’t only for athletes. Even if your child isn’t interested in sports, strength training can:
Improve your child’s performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer!

Strengthen your child’s bones

A proper soccer-specific strength and fitness training program will assist in promoting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It will boost your child’s metabolism, help your child maintain a healthy weight. A properly implemented and monitored soccer/sex-specific strength and fitness program with improve your child’s self-esteem, as well.

When can a child begin strength training?

During childhood, kids improve their body awareness, control, and balance through active play. Soccer is an excellent vehicle for all three, and more! As early as age 8, however, strength training can become a valuable part of an overall fitness plan — as long as the child is mature enough to follow directions and practice proper technique and form.

If your child expresses an interest in strength training, remind him or her that strength and fitness training is meant to increase muscle strength and endurance. Bulking up is something else entirely — and most safely done after puberty, for a variety of reasons.

What’s the best way to start a strength training program for kids?

A child’s soccer-specific strength and fitness training program isn’t necessarily a scaled-down version of what an adult would do. Keep these general principles in mind:

Seek professional instruction. Start with a coach or personal trainer who has experience with sport & sex specific, youth strength and fitness training. The coach or trainer can create a safe, effective soccer-specific strength and fitness training program based on your child’s age, size, skills and sports interests. Many suggest you enroll your child in a strength training and fitness class designed for kids. I do not!

Children should be monitored and trained one-on-one. Period. No exceptions!

Warm up.

Require your child to begin each strength training session with five to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging in place or jumping rope. This warms up the muscles and helps reduce the risk of injury! Gentle stretching before and after each session should be mandatory, as well.

Keep it light but not too late!

Kids can safely lift adult-size weights, as long as the weight is light enough. In most cases, one set of 10 to 12 repetitions is all it takes, at least at first. As stated above, the resistance does not have to come from weights! Resistance tubing and body-weight exercises, such as push-pulls, pull-ups and push-ups can be just as effective.

Stress proper technique.

Rather than focusing on the amount of weight your child lifts, stress proper form and technique during each exercise. A child under 12 years of age, and many to 14-15 years of age, should never max-out. Never! Your child may gradually increase the resistance for a given exercise as he or she gains more experience, and as he or she gets older. Increasing the number of repetitions is less effective and generally leads to a training plateau. High rep workouts have been shown to be far less effective than their heavier rep counterparts.


Adult supervision is an important and integral aspect of any sport-specific, youth strength and fitness training program. If your child lifts weights, act as a spotter — someone who stands ready to grab the weights should failure occur— in case the weight becomes too heavy.

Rest between workouts.

Make sure your child rests at least one full day between exercising each specific muscle group. Two or three strength training sessions a week are plenty. While it may seem counter-intuitive, as an athlete grows stronger, he or she should work out each body part less often! Not more!

Keep it fun.

Help your child vary the routine to prevent boredom, stagnation, and plateauing. Results won’t come overnight. But eventually, your child will notice a big difference in muscle strength and endurance — which may fuel a fitness habit that lasts a lifetime.

NOTE: If you have any questions about this or any other posting, please call me! I will be happy to answer any questions I can.

Thanks for stopping by and….

See you in the cheap seats!

Skype: johnzajaros1

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