It is a question that is often asked of, ‘when should children or younger athlete’s start strength training?’
It is often associated with incorrect myths, such as strength training stunts growth or will reduce your flexibility. These myths are completely misguided and totally unsupported by research completed to investigate the effects of strength training on youth and adolescents. The researchers that have put the most work into this area are Avery Faigenbaum, Rhodri Lloyd and Greg Myer. They have been researching this area extensively and have consistently shown significant benefits to the physical, social and psychological development of youth and adolescents associated with graduated muscular strength development. In fact an interesting paper by Myer highlighted that the early one starts this process, the greater the potential physical capacity development may be long term. So the earlier you start the higher physical capacity ceiling that the athlete may potentially have.
A more recent review has also looked at the health benefits of muscular fitness in children and adolescents, Garcia Hermoso 2019. Interestingly this review shows that greater performance in muscular fitness tasks such as sit ups, pushups, pull ups and jumping abilities is associated with long term health benefits such as reduced BMI, insulin resistance, triglyceride numbers and cardiovascular disease score. Along with this there are increases in bone mineral density.
With all these benefits, starting strength training, as long as it is gradual and progressed appropriately, is extremely important for long term health. With this in mind avoiding strength development in children and adolescents is doing our youth a disservice.