Falk, B., & Tenenbaum, G. (1996). The effectiveness of resistance training in children: A meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 22, 176-186.

Early studies and theorists have generally supported the view that resistance (strength) training in prepubescent children is ineffective. This study performed a meta-analysis on published studies that used Ss with a maximum age of 12 yr for girls and 13 yr for boys.

From 25 studies which showed an increase in strength in children, 9 were sufficiently detailed and controlled to assess common magnitudes of effect. Generally, improvements of between 13 and 30% were obtained. The size of the effect was modified by the various variables associated with resistance training (loads, frequency, type of exercise, sessions per week, etc.).

Three studies were found that demonstrated no change. The authors advise that since studies which show changes are published with a much higher frequency than those which yield no differences, the overall meta-analysis could be biased.

Generally, adults and adolescents demonstrate greater absolute increases in strength but prepubescents demonstrate an equal or greater relative percentage gain. No differences in gains were found between genders in children.

As with almost all strength programs rates of gain are highest at the start and largely due to learning to do the skills involved in a more economical manner.

Studies in this area have not been designed particularly well. Many factors need to be controlled. Simply giving a weight program and measuring changes does not shed light on effects because of the many confounding variables associated with this activity.

Implication. Strength training programs are effective with prepupbescent children. The dynamics and limits of this form of training have not been determined for this population. Coaches are advised to be cautious when employing this training activity.

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