Strength Training for Kids
Strength training for kids is
highly beneficial. Like you, I am a big advocate of kids working out and
getting much needed exercise. When this is done in an organised fashion, all
elements of physical fitness can be introduced properly to the child.
is just one of these elements of fitness but due to the potential health risk
associated with all physical activity, we should all have more than just a
little knowledge of how strength training affect kids.
Training to Train
Before the advent of video games and 24 hour
televisions, kids use to run around, jump over barriers, climb trees and play
piggy back games with their friends. In playing
those games they get an enormous amount of exercise covering the full spectrum
of fitness. More important to our discussion, the climbing, the jumping and the
carrying, all helped to strengthen their muscles as part of that growing up
Unfortunately, many kids don’t participate
in these play activities these days. And
because of this, an important part of their physical development is stunted.
many young people if they decide to participate in organised sports, their physical
fitness level is below that of their more adventurous peers. As a consequence when
they take up sport we first have to ”training
them to train”.
I am going to make a number of
you have come to this page because you have heard conflicting information about
strength training for kids.
you are looking for some ideas to implement with youngsters you are working
you are looking for information on strength training for kids and not weight
training for kids, which is a whole different subject.
So let me deal with the last
point first. Weight training and strength training are two separate things. Let
me explain, strength training is the effect you are looking for, weight
training is the means or method (you choose) by which you can gain strength.
be perfectly honest when it comes to strength building, our bodies don’t care
whether we are using a medicine ball, a bucket full of sand, an elastic band or
just plain body weight. All the foregoing activities will elicit a
strengthening response to some degree in adults let alone kids.
So, now we have that out of the
you should know about kid’s bodies
- The best time for boys to
optimize strength training is between 14-18 years and for girls 11-16 years.
That being said, this does not mean that strength training can’t or shouldn’t
be undertaken before these ages. All that the statement means is that at these
times is the perfect window of opportunity for the development of strength training for
kids. They will adapt better to any strength related stimulus during those
favoured periods. More on that late…
- In the early years (8-11yrs) young
people will respond positively to strength training without any visible signs (hypertrophy)
that they are indeed strong. After strength training, kid will still look like
the skinny little runts they have always been before they began training. This
is the same for girls as well as boys. Most of the changes are being made to
their nervous system, at a so called neurological level. Studies have shown
that with strength training the first response to such training is an increase
of motor unit activation (a motor unit is literally the engine of the muscle).
Training seems to switch more of these on, and that’s why kids exhibit more
strength without any increase in size.
- Kids’ ability to take advantage
of training for sport is largely dependant on their maturation stage (the
stages of development of the body) rather than chronological age (their actual
age). So for example, you might have 2 young boys age 12 years, one could be
following the normal pattern of growth, while the other may have already hit
puberty and have ten times as much testosterone coursing around his body. The
second child will have already begun his “growth spurt” (the scientific term
for this is peak height velocity, but let’s keep it simple eh?). The readiness
to cope with certain strength training activities will be markedly different
for the two kids.
You will need to be careful of
overloading the youngster during the growth spurt years. This is because growth
occurs at the ends of the long bones of the legs and arms. As this happens the
attachments of tendons and ligaments at these points are delicate at best. The
sites where tendons and ligament are attached, by necessity must be pliable to
accommodate movement caused by the growth of the bone. If too much load is
applied, you can imagine the potential scenario that strength training for kids can have on a developing body!!
So, just be careful!!
Benefits of strength training for kids
benefits of strength training for kids are many. For example:
- If nothing else, it increases
the strength of the child's muscle
- It will help to protect the
child from sports related injuries
- Of course you will expect to
see an improvement in performance in any and every sport or physical
- It strengthen their bones -
research studied are very positive on this point
- Help your child to maintain
a healthy weight
to help you develop programs for strength training for kids
A lot of
times you go into gyms and you see kids doing scaled down versions of adult
training. This is so wrong!
me wrong, there is absolutely nothing incorrect in having young people perform
strength training. However, there is clear evidence available which suggests
the type of activity that is appropriate for young people at certain stages
of their development. So, here are some guidelines that I have adopted from
some of these studies. These can be used to develop your strength training programs
and strategies for kids.
- 6 to 9
years old - Strength training during this phase should include exercises using
the child’s own body weight, medicine ball and Swiss ball exercises, partners
and elastic bands9 to 11
years old - Strength should be developed by medicine ball, Swiss ball and own
body weight exercises as well as hopping and bounding exercises.
- For girls
there are two windows of opportunity to maximize strength development. One is
immediately following the beginning of their growth spurt (about 12yrs) and the
other is at the beginning of menstruation.
- The window of opportunity for boys
is about 12 to 18 months after the beginning of their growth spurt (about 13-14yrs).
This is the period where a more
traditional approach to strength training such as weight lifting can be followed
in their training programs.
should always have the youngsters perform a warm up and a cool down.
using traditional strength training methods such as weight lifting, you should keep
the load light. Have them use a weight that they can perform more than 8
repetitions in a set.
stress good lifting techniques and only allow them to lift a load where proper
technique can be executed.
should schedule strength training workouts 48 hours apart. This allows muscle
to recover and adaptation to take place.
And finally, make it fun – you don’t want to bore
the child out of the sport or activity.
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