High intensity training in young athletes

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Craig Williams with Bert Bond

Sports coaches working with children comment that children and adolescents often experience less fatigue during short-burst activities compared to adults. It is our experience both in the field and in a laboratory setting that children are often able to repeat high intensity exercises quicker than adults and do not necessarily exhibit similar fatigue symptoms. Over the last decade, a number of studies have shown that during high intensity exercise (defined as the intensity above the maximum speed or power output achieved in the last minute of an incremental aerobic fitness test), the decrement in peak performance is lower in children than in adults. Hebestreit et al. and Beneke et al. indicated that the percent decline in power during a 30 s all-out cycle sprint (Wingate test) was lower in young boys compared to men. These observations have also been observed using strength tests from a 30 s isometric maximal contraction of elbow flexors (biceps brachii). The authors showed that peak force declined significantly greater in adults than in children. On the basis of these and other results, a tenable proposition is that children recover more quickly than adults following high intensity exercise and that they are able to repeat these maximal intensity exercises with short recovery intervals more consistently. These observations are important as previously the focus on training of children was related more towards aerobic training, mostly of a continuous, steady state type of exercise.

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