Regular exercise benefits all people regardless of age and ability. For athletes trying to improve in their respective sport, strength training has been linked to increased power production, agility, endurance, and decreased risk of injury. However, there is still a negative stigma associated with kids and strength training. Typical questions posed are, "Is it safe?" "Will strength training stunt my child’s growth?"
These are common questions asked by parents because these myths, which have been debunked many times, are still promoted throughout society. The truth is that a proper strength and conditioning program monitored and overseen by a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach is safe — and in some instances safer than the sports and activities your children are already participating in.
So, should your child be strength training? Absolutely!
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 1 hour of activity / 3 days of the week…including muscle and bone strengthening exercises. It is often debated at what age children should start training, but if your child is mature enough to take place in an organized sport, then they are able to start resistance training. For most kids this is around 6-8 years, old but maturity does play an important role in deciding when the time is right.
So, while the myths have been proven to be untrue, it is important to understand where they came from. Kids have been injured from lifting weights. Many times it was unsupervised. Those injuries were then met with a blanket statement of “training for kids is bad!” I understand this perspective. If I had a child, I would be upset. However, what most do not understand is that while those injuries happened, they were often a result of poor programming, exercise selection, lifting heavy weights with improper form, AND lack of supervision. As previously stated, while under the supervision and close monitoring of a qualified professional, a lot of those risks are mitigated.
There are many benefits to strength training along with regular exercise. Research has indicated significant improvement in these areas:
- Increased muscle strength and power
- Increased balance and stability
- Increased speed in change of direction and agility
- Decreased risk and severity of sport related injuries
- Increased overall fitness
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Positive changes in body composition
- Increased self esteem and confidence
- Learning healthy habits that will last a lifetime
Strength Training vs Weight Lifting
Many still confuse the two. Strength training is exactly at it sounds, using resistance training to illicit the adaptation of stronger muscles, ligaments, and bones. Powerlifting, bodybuilding, and weightlifting are different entirely where the focus is more on bulk or amount of weight lifted. These modalities would not be safe for your child and are not recommended until your child has reached proper maturity and training age. The focus of a youth strength training program is general movement competency, and using bodyweight exercises to lay down a good foundation to build on. Once movement competency is established, then light resistance bands can be used , free weights, or medicine balls.
The #1 goal of a youth strength training program, or any program, is SAFETY. The focus is on quality movement, not the quantity of weight lifted. The exercise selection and the amount of resistance are both factors a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach should take into consideration when designing a program. The maturity, ability, and individual goals of each athlete also factor into those decisions. If you are looking to have your child enrolled in a strength & conditioning program, it is very important to find a qualified coach who you trust to give your child the foundation for long term athletic development and healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood.
Iron Orr Fitness Strength & Conditioning Coach San Diego Seals Strength & Conditioning Coach Certified Functional Strength Coach
Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist