Many parents are hesitant about allowing their kids to take on strength training. This is likely due to the many misconceptions surrounding strength training for kids, such as the belief that strength training will stunt growth. The reality is that when done properly, strength training will not cause harm to children and will instead allow them to experience a wide variety of benefits. Strength training, like every other kind of exercise, comes with certain risks but it is important to remember that strength training is not inherently dangerous. When done right, it can serve as a foundation for your child to live a life of good health and fitness.
Strength Training vs Weightlifting
It is important to note that strength training is not the same as weightlifting, powerlifting or bodybuilding. The goal of strength training for kids is not to bulk up as training with heavy weights can strain their muscles, tendons, and growth plates. Instead, strength training for kids should be focused on controlled movements and execution of proper techniques through resistance training and bodyweight exercises.
Advantages of Strength Training for Kids
- Enhance muscle strength and muscle endurance
- Strengthen bones
- Strengthen joints to minimize sports-related injuries
- Promote and maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Facilitate maintenance of a healthy weight
- Improve overall performance in most types of sports
- Enhance self-esteem and self-confidence
- Learning of proper strength training techniques that they can use throughout their life
Starting a Strength Training Program
Children can begin strength training at as early as 7 to 8 years of age, provided they are mature enough to follow and understand directions and can learn the proper forms and techniques. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, school-going children should get at least an hour of physical activity each day and that muscle and bone strengthening exercises, like strength training, should be included in their daily exercises three days a week.
Before beginning strength training, consult your child’s physician to ensure that it is okay for them to do it, especially if your child has a pre-existing health problem like epilepsy or high blood pressure.
If your child is interested in strength training and are healthy enough to do it, you can start right away. Here are the steps to take to ensure a safe and successful strength training program for your child.
- Hire/Consult a professional coach or trainer: A professional coach or trainer experienced in conducting strength training with kids will be able to design and a safe and effective strength training for your child. Alternating, you can sign your child up for a strength training class designed specifically for children.
- Keep the training light: It is okay to allow your child to lift adult-sized weights, so long as the weights are light. It enough for them to do just 1-2 sets of 12-15 repetitions. Other than weights, they can also use resistance tubing or do body weight exercise, like push ups or parallel bars.
- Emphasize proper technique: this is important to ensure that they do not strain themselves and get injured. Form and technique should be prioritized above the amount of weight that they can lift.
- Stretch before and after: Gentle stretching or light aerobic activity, like jogging, walking, or jumping rope, will help to prepare your child’s muscles for strength training. Stretching after strength training will help them to cool down by facilitating a gradual decrease in heart rate.