Most parents and coaches agree that America’s youth needs to participate in more fitness conditioning. Surprisingly youth strength training is still considered controversial. It is a myth that strength/weight training is unsafe or dangerous for kids. Strength training is another great way to improve your child’s overall sports performance, build their confidence and mitigate injuries. According to American College of Sports Medicine, kids should be working out at moderate to high intensity on a daily basis. To develop a well-rounded young athlete they should be performing conditioning drills (i.e. running, jumping rope), strength training (i.e. push-ups, squats, planks) and flexibility/balance training (i.e. dynamic stretching and single leg drills) during these training sessions.
If your kids are doing push-ups, burpees and jump training, they are engaging in weight baring movements. These exercises are great for kids, but the addition of structured strength training will enhance a kid’s ability to do these common exercises. Structured strength training programs are far more likely to improve a child’s overall muscular development, coordination and fitness level.
Stop believing the myth about the dangers of strength training for kids. There are inherent dangers in all activity that is un-supervised or poorly lead. If your kids are dedicated athletes or playing their sport for the majority of the year, strength and conditioning classes will have a positive impact on their athletic development and assist in preventing injuries.
The body’s muscles can not differentiate between resistance that is being applied by a weight or stress applied from aggressive playing, manual labor or sport specific movements like pull-ups, rope climbs, leaping and landing off the monkey bars. A child’s body in many ways is more amazing than an adult’s. While it is growing it is constantly adapting. In fact, the muscles will contract and create force to counter the weight it is experiencing in an effort to enhance strength. It becomes stronger because it is forced to adapt.
Benefits of Strength Training for Kids:
- Increase the strength of a child’s muscles and joints.
- Improves the neuromuscular connection between the body and the brain.
- Improves the muscles ability to “fire” or contract.
- Improves ability to be explosive.
- Builds confidence.
- Develops the child’s overall athletic “IQ.”
6 Guidelines for Youth Strength Training
- Strength training does not equate to power lifting and Olympic. Kids like beginner adults should follow a beginner strength-training program.
- Chose a qualified coach who will teach the mechanical skills to be able to do various weight lifting movements like medicine ball throwing, squatting, dead lifts, pressing and pulling.
- Slowly progress the load lifted for children is the smartest way to increase the intensity. As a general guide, if you have concerns over choosing the most appropriate weight, increase loads no more than 10% per training session. Despite this recommendation, it is always going to be relative to the child’s ability to control the weighted tool you have chosen (dumb bells, med ball, etc..)
- The maturity and self-control of a child is a better indicator than their precise age. I have a 5 year old that pushes a sled and stacks weighted sand bells. I have also told a parent of a 9 year old, that their child was not ready for my strength training class because they were not able to follow the instructions.
- Supervision should go without saying. Like an adult strength training class, you must be attentive to teaching and reinforcing technique. There are so many amazing class formats. For example, if a class includes a kettle bell squat and I can only supervise two kids at a time, the other children will be assigned exercises that they can perform independently, like plank holds, bosu bounding or even bar hangs. It is important that youth strength training classes have a scalable program. Class must be able to honestly build the strength and technique of the youth clients.
- All strength-training classes should focus on the big picture. It should be dialed into the realistic abilities of the children taking class. Avoid using instagram and youtube videos to write your program. Social media posts should be used as inspiration.