15 March 2021

The current NZ Government recommendations for youth participating in physical activity are pretty simple; they boil down to ‘Sit less, move more and sleep well’ (Ministry of Health, 2017). However, as a PT you need to be able to understand the mechanisms for safely training youth, how to teach them functional movement skills, and how to progress their components of fitness when applicable.


So, how do we know how to set the appropriate training for young people, and what are the current recommendations? This article will cover the current recommendations, training specific to physical maturity, and components of fitness, plus some great reference articles for further reading.


As you might have previously read on our learning platform, participating in exercise and physical activity provides a range of benefits to children (aged from 2 years to the onset of puberty) and adolescents (aged from puberty to 18 years). These benefits can relate to improved strength, speed, and endurance; improved motor patterns and coordination; reduced risk of sports-related or overuse injuries by up to 50% due to strengthening ligaments, tendons, bone and muscle; and establishing lifelong positive habits and benefits related to participating in regular physical activity (Lloyd et al., 2012).


The age and the current movement ability of each young person will have an impact on the type and level of training you should perform. The first thing you want to understand is that functional movement skills (FMS) - such as running, jumping, kicking, throwing and balancing - are very important as children grow up. These basic movement patterns help to prepare them for more complex motor pattern movements and sport-specific skills as they age.

Here is a great website to learn more about FMS for specific ages:

Fundamental movement patterns are also important to know and understand, as they form the basis of everyday movement and lead on to helping children progress in sporting situations as well as in everyday life. Before training anyone who is new to participating in a strengthening program, you always need to conduct some form of pre-screening to understand where they are at physically and understand their goals. This is no different for children, as you need to understand their current physical state before organising and planning supervised, progressive training. Current recommendations from this field of research highlight the following ideas (ACSM position statement, 2017, and UKSCA position statement, 2012):


  • Aim for 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, with strength training performed 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days;
  • Cater specifically to the needs and abilities of individual participants with progressive programs, and choose exercises to teach fundamental technical competency;
  • Training should be supervised by qualified individuals to maintain safety and technique, and to enhance motor learning patterns and functional skills;
  • Strength training with a focus on movement, compound exercises, and covering all major muscle groups;
  • Strength training guidelines: 1 to 3 sets of 6-20 reps of 6-12 exercises using body weight or 50-70% of 1RM, going through a full range of motion. Progressing to 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps with heavier weights (70-85% of 1RM) once technical competency is reached, or for expert training using lower volume, higher intensity training of 2-5 sets of 3-5 reps (85% or more of 1RM).

With any new training program - and especially as a beginner - it is important to be able to move well using your body first, before adding in resistance. See the table below from Lloyd et al. (2012) to see the current UK recommendations for youth resistance training. This should be looked at in terms of training age and physical maturity, not always by chronological age; if you had two children of different ages (e.g., 10 years and 15 years) who are both new to resistance training, you would treat them both as beginners, and assess their movement capabilities with basic skills and training parameters. The older child might progress faster with movement competency and strength, however, both children need to start at a similar place as they have a low training age (0 if they have never trained before) and are therefore both classed as ‘beginners’.


Figure 1. UKSCA position statement resistance training guidelines (Lloyd et al., 2017).

A common area that is highlighted in the youth resistance training guidelines, and which is also reflected in the NZ guidelines, is that training should be specific to the individual’s current physical abilities, training age/competence, and emotional maturity (i.e., ability to follow required direction to maintain safety in a gym environment). You might have noticed that some young people grow faster or earlier than others; for example, you might have two 12-year-olds who are the same age and participate in the same sport at school, but are at different physical and maturity levels (based on puberty). Therefore, training for each youth should be tailored to the stage they are at, their movement skill abilities, and their previous training history/physical fitness level. One way of calculating physical maturity can be using an online calculator or spreadsheet to track peak height velocity (PHV).



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As children reach the onset of puberty, they can experience an increase in strength and rapid growth. This can vary based on the individual, and the timing of this increase is different for each child. The long term athlete development (LTAD) or the youth physical development (YPD) models can help to identify patterns in maturation and growth, to help provide strategies for athletic development (Lloyd, R. & Oliver, J., 2012). By measuring the height and weight of children as they grow you are able to determine their peak height velocity (PHV). The PHV can predict when an adolescent growth spurt may occur, and allow you to train based on physical maturation and current skills, so you are not restricted to training based on age.




Peak height velocity (PHV) can be calculated using gender, date of birth, standing height (cm), sitting height (cm) and weight (kg). There is high accuracy of these measurements in predicting physical maturity between 9-13 years for females and 12-16 years in males (Science by Sport, 2016). Calculating PHV is a great way to understand where a child is in terms of physical maturity/development, and it can help to influence programming specific to areas of development for different components of fitness. The below diagrams from an article by Lloyd and Oliver (2012) highlight the YPD model specific to training and growth, and when best to train for specific components of fitness to allow for best adaptations. 


Figure 2: Youth Physical development model for FEMALES (pink) and for MALES (blue) (Lloyd & Oliver, 2012).

These diagrams show that as children age, the focus should shift from a functional movement skill-based approach - which can be a loose structure - toward more structured and specific strength and speed-focused training. This can be centred around maturation and puberty, but trainers also need to take into account the current physical and movement abilities of the individual young person, and their training age.


For some great in-depth reading about youth resistance training, and understanding maturation and PHV, check out the following articles:  and

Back to Articles

Readings and resources:

-        Calculator for PHV

-        Chavez, M. (2018). Youth Strength Training: The importance of youths participating in regular strength training. Science for Sport. Retrieved from

-        Walker, O. (2016). Peak Height Velocity. Science for Sport. Retrieved from

-        Functional Movement Skills for all ages, 




-        Faigenbaum, A., & Micheli, L. (2017). ACSM Sports Medicine Basics: Youth Strength Training. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from

-        Lloyd, R., Faigenbaum, A., Myer, G., Stone, M., Oliver, J., Jeffreys, I., Moody, J., Brewer, C., & Pierce, K. (2012). UKSCA Position Statement: Youth Resistance Training. UK Strength and Conditioning Association, 26(Summer), 26-39. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/UKSCAPositionStatementFinal.pdf

-        Lloyd, R., & Oliver,J. (2012). The Youth Physical Development Model. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 34(3), 61-72. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31825760ea (

-        Ministry of Health (2017). Physical Activity. Retrieved from,and%20vigorous%2Dintensity%20aerobic%20activity


 Written by tutor Michelle Murphy