Should Young Tennis Players Be Strength Training?

Scott Riewald, of Active kids, weighs in on strength training for youthful tennis players.  Tennis games are faster and players are hitting the ball harder from everywhere on the court.  Coaches, parents and players are adding strength and conditioning programming as part of their tennis training.  However, there are a lot of questions about starting this kind of programming with young children and here are some of them:

What are the goals/ benefits of strength training?

  • Strength training for tennis can help to prevent injury and enhance on-court performance.  Certain exercises can strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff to maintain a proper strength balance in the shoulder.
  • Goal of strength training for young kids should be to increase muscular endurance.
  • Switching the goal of strength training to increasing maximal strength should happen only after a player goes through puberty.

Is strength training safe for young players?

  • Realisticially, it is important to accept that injuries may occur with strength training. Keep in mind that almost all physical activities or exercise has some level of injury risk.  Professionals agree that the youth strength training can be safe and effective with competent coaching that includes proper supervision and demonstrations of the proper form.

Isn’t there a risk that growth plates will be damaged?

  • “The fact is that no growth plate fractures have been documented in athletes who engage in a resistance-training program that follows the two guidelines listed above.  “To minimize the risk of injury to growth plates, it is recommended that, “players do not lift heavy weight over their heads or attempt to lift extremely heavy weights. Growth plate injuries should be taken seriously because they can happen. However, with proper care the risk can be almost eliminated.”

What exercises are appropriate for young players?

  • Body weight exercises that use the athlete’s own body weight as the resistance such as  push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups (crunches, bicycles, etc), “supermans”, body weight lunges and squats, and step-ups.
  • Using stretch tubing to perform shoulder internal and external rotation exercises to train the muscles that make up the rotator cuff and rowing exercises to train the scapular muscles that also control shoulder movement.

What are some other factors to consider when looking at a strength training program?

  • Emotional and physical maturity of the child.
  • Is the equipment to be used sized appropriately for the child?
  • Are the trainers appropriately trained to responsibly and safely work with your child to ensure injury-free strength training that meets the individual needs of the player and their sport of choice?

Always remember to consult with your child’s personal health care professional before you make any decisions to enroll your child in a physical training program.

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For more details: Strength Training for Young Tennis Players

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