Kevin Turner-Turner Strength & Performance
Benefits of Strength Training
A solid training program, in a well supervised environment with a qualified trainer, has been shown to improve confidence, self-esteem, muscle strength, sports performance, heart health, bone mineral density, increases in lean body mass and metabolic rate and creating a healthy habit of fitness that they can carry throughout their lives. Strength training has also been shown to possibly reduce ACL injuries in adolescent girls, when combined with specific plyometric exercises, and may potentially reduce overuse injuries of the shoulders in overhead sports.
In this article, I will define strength training as the use of resistance methods to increase one’s ability to exert or resist force. A few examples of this training can include:
- Free weights.
- Body weight exercises.
- Resistance bands.
- Machines or other methods (machines are typically designed for adults and care must be taken for use with children).
When Should Children Start Training?
Since balance and postural control skills do not mature to adult levels until 7-8 years old,1 children should not start strength training until these skills are acquired. Other key factors should be the ability to follow instructions, maturity and dedication. At early ages, maximum one repetition lifts should not be attempted to avoid injury. When weights are used, higher repetition ranges (8-15 reps for 2-3 sets) should be utilized and increases in weight should be carefully monitored. Olympic weightlifting such as the clean and jerk and the snatch should focus more on technique rather than weight. Patience and dedication are factors to be considered as most programs will not yield quantifiable or visual results until 8 weeks. Research has also shown that training two days a week is more beneficial that only once a week. Also keep in mind, that gains in strength will begin to diminish if training is abandoned for 6 weeks or more.
The Risks of Strength Training
The risk of potential injuries must be taken into account when considering a strength training program. Some examples of risks to consider are as follows; injuries to the disks and growth plates of the spine, the risk of free weights dropping causing broken bones or serious injury. Muscle strains account for 40%-70% of all strength training injuries with the hand, low back and upper trunk being the most common. With strict and qualified supervision, the likelihood of strength training injuries is less than the risk of injury during recess play at school.1
General Guidelines Before You Start
- Be evaluated by a physician.
- Hire a qualified trainer for guidance.
- Warmup and cool down properly.
- Practice proper technique- I cannot stress this enough.
- Include aerobic conditioning into your program.
- Work on proper movement technique and train all major muscle groups.
- Keep repetitions high (2-3 sets of 8-15 reps).
- Do not increase weights by more than 10% per week.
- Take your time. Strength training is a life time endeavor, don’t risk injury!
Before starting any strength training program your child should be evaluated by their family physician and approved for exercise. Children and parents should also take into consideration that strength training is just a portion of a complete fitness training program. Proper diet and aerobic fitness are just as important to achieving a healthy lifestyle as is strength training. A qualified trainer that encourages strict adherence to form and safe technique, along with a well-rounded fitness program will help ensure that your child develops healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood.
- The content and statistics for this article were taken from the American Academy of Pediatrics article. For more of an in-depth analysis of this topic, please check out the article cited here. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835