Lesinski, M., Herz, M., Schmelcher, A., & Granacher, U. (2020) – Sports Medicine, 50(11), 1901–1928.
Background: Over the past decades, an exponential growth has occurred with regards to the number of scientific publications including meta-analyses on youth resistance training (RT). Accordingly, it is timely to summarize findings from meta-analyses in the form of an umbrella review.
Objectives: To systematically review and summarise the findings of published meta-analyses that investigated the effects of RT on physical fitness in children and adolescents.
Design: Systematic umbrella review of meta-analyses.
Data Sources: Meta-analyses were identified using systematic literature searches in the databases PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library.
Eligibility Criteria: Meta-analyses that examined the effects of RT on physical fitness (e.g.,muscle strength, muscle power) in healthy youth (≤ 18 years).
Results: Fourteen meta-analyses were included in this umbrella review. Eleven of these meta-analyses reported between- subject effect sizes which are important to eliminate bias due to growth and maturation. RT produced medium-to-large effects on muscle strength, small-to-large effects on muscle power, small-to-medium effects on linear sprint, a medium effect on agility/change-of-direction speed, small-to-large effects on throwing performance, and a medium effect on sport-specific enhancement. There were few consistent moderating effects of maturation, age, sex, expertise level, or RT type on muscle strength and muscle power across the included meta-analyses. The analysed meta-analyses showed low-to-moderate methodological quality (AMSTAR2) as well as presented evidence of low-to-very low quality (GRADE).
Conclusion: This umbrella review proved the effectiveness of RT in youth on a high evidence level. The magnitude of effects varies according to the respective outcome measure and it appears to follow the principle of training specificity. Larger effect sizes were found for strength-related outcome measures. Future studies should consistently report data on participants’ maturational status. More research is needed with prepubertal children and girls, irrespective of their maturational status.