Resistance Training for Children and Adolescents
What Are The Benefits Of Strength Training For Children?
The benefits of resistance training for children include increased strength, improved coordination, increased body awareness, positive body image and injury prevention for sports and recreational activities. Pre-pubescent children may not have the adequate levels of hormones to increase muscle mass, but they can still increase strength through greater muscle activation and recruitment.
How Young Is Too Young To Start?
This simple answer is there is no minimum age. However to participate in a structured strength training program using weights and resistance equipment, children should have the maturity and discipline to follow instructions and concentrate on what they are doing when performing exercises. So as a basic rule of thumb, if a child is old enough to follow the instructions of a coach when playing a sport, they should be able to follow the instructions of a coach when performing strength exercises.
What Sort Of Exercises Are Appropriate For Children?
Exercises which involve multiple joints and muscle groups such as squats, lunges and pull ups should form the basis of a youth strength training program. This is because they encourage coordination development and are functional movements which are often replicated in sports and daily activities.
Can Children Lift Heavy Weights?
The emphasis of a strength training program for kids should first and foremost be on correct technique and coordination development. External resistance should only be added to an exercise once the child can demonstrate correct technique. From then as long as correct technique is being maintained, external resistance can then be added as tolerated. This is where the skills of an experienced Exercise Physiologist or Strength and Conditioning Coach are required to closely monitor technique and resistance.
Is Resistance Training Safe For Children?
Many research studies have shown that resistance training which is appropriately prescribed and supervised by an adequately qualified individual such as an Exercise Physiologist or Strength and Conditioning Coach, is not only safe but beneficial for children and adolescents. In fact rates of injury in appropriately supervised and prescribed strength programs for kids are far less than most other competitive sports which children regularly participate in.
Written by Jack Hickey
Exercise Physiologist at MD Health Pilates