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Advantages and Risks of Interscholastic Strength Training

Participating in interscholastic athletics can be a challenging time for student-athletes. Along with newly introduced pressures, they are still enduring substantial physical, mental, and chemical changes associated with puberty. It is the responsibility of coaches and athletic staff to protect student-athletes against anything that may cause more permanent damages during this tumultuous growth period. Although some things are harder to protect against such as external influences, they do have a sizeable influence over student-athletes’ workout habits – specifically their strength training.

High school student-athletes compete and train under the watchful eye of athletic staff. The staff’s highest priority is safety which can easily be compromised under the athletic rigors. Female and male athletes want to push themselves physically harder through training that includes machine and free weights. There is a commonly known myth that training with weights at younger ages can stunt growth, which is partially true. Incorrect training, improper form, and an unclear goal with weights can severely damage a teenager’s growth and more, but proper use can leverage the desired benefits.

Through a coach or athletic administrator’s tutelage, student-athletes can safely and properly partake in strength training to benefit their athletic performance. They will learn about the advantages and risks of strength training, as well as discover it is different than weightlifting.

Strength Training is Not Weightlifting

It is a common misconception that strength training and weightlifting refer to the same exercises. When parents or student-athletes consider weights as part of an exercise, the visual of heavy weights and spotters may come to mind. In fact, these are very different activities. According to professional materials from the Iowa High School Athletic Association, weightlifting is “a competitive sport in which the lifter tries to lift as much weight as possible during one exercise.” Inversely, they define strength training as “lifting weights and using other resistance methods to improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.”

High school coaches work to raise awareness and education about the differences between the sport of weightlifting and strength training. However, the difference does not absolve strength training from the potential risk of serious injury. The exercises included in strength training don’t require extremely heavy weight movement, but any added weight or improper form can have negative repercussions. Coaches teach student-athletes how to properly strength train so they benefit from increased strength and endurance, muscle protection, developed technique, and improved confidence.

Increase in Overall Strength and Endurance

As per the goal of training in general, the goal of strength training is to increase performance. Repeated, progressive practice in athletics culminates in performance advancement. Through strength training exercises including three reps of 75 percent of the athlete’s maximum ability, they will gain strength. Through other exercises including fifteen reps with lighter weights, they will gain endurance. Balanced as the coach or trainer sees fit, these variations of strength training will increase a student-athlete’s strength and endurance.

Protects Muscles and Joints from Injury

Strength training works duly, increasing an athlete’s performance and protecting their muscles and joints. Extended use and wear on student-athletes’ bodies will eventually result in injury if not prepared properly. Strength training literally strengthens muscles and tendons holding joints in place so they can withstand prolonged athletic use. As sports become more competitive through high school and upward, coaches prepare the athletes accordingly with methods such as strength training. Without it, the competitive level may surpass their body’s ability to cope and serious injury can occur.

Develops Techniques and Improves Confidence

Coaches and trainers divide strength training into four seasons where it’s paired with additional training methods and the intensity is adjusted. Throughout the different training periods, student-athletes can comprehensively witness their strength enhancement. Setting challenging but attainable strength goals and accomplishing them instills confidence – a necessary trait for success.

During the “pre-season”, one of the four strength training seasons, coaches refocus the training. Strength training is continued and paired with sport-related exercises so the athlete’s body can acclimate to the movements. The coach or trainer needs to assist the athlete in using their newfound strength and endurance built up by training during the “off-season”, when strength is most developed. In this circular method, the athlete will continually build up their athletic technique and harness their physical ability without risking injury.

Minor and Major Injuries

All exercise including strength training involves the risk of injury. If done improperly or without appropriate supervision, student-athletes can severely hurt themselves. Any damage that isn’t repaired by a trained professional can become worse because they are still growing. Broken bones can grow incorrectly, growth plates can be stunted, and cartilage damage can lead to unnecessary complications later in life. The injuries most commonly associated with strength training include: herniated disks, muscle tears, bone fractures, and growth plate damage. Fortunately, coach or staff-assisted strength training and education can avoid these injuries, and fortify the athletes against later injury.

Knowledgeable Interscholastic Athletic Staff is Needed

High school coaches, trainers, and administrative staff have the opportunity to improve student-athletes lives permanently. Much of the physical fitness education they learn during high school will shape their future exercise habits. Educated athletic staff can help them perform exercises appropriately and learn how to build their own exercise schedule. They set student-athletes up for success by teaching them proper strength training instead of hurting themselves by training incorrectly.

Learn More

The Ohio University online Master’s in Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is the pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.

Recommended Readings

4 Traits Developed by Interscholastic Sports
Combating dangerous youth concussions with proper training for coaching
Benefits and Impact of Youth & Interscholastic Sports

Sources:

https://www.iahsaa.org/Sports_Medicine_Wellness/Performance/Strength_Training.pdf

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/Weight-Training-Risk-of-Injury.aspx

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758?pg=2

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