BLOG 119 CHILDREN & STRENGTH TRAINING
Exercise and sports begin at a young age with T-ball, soccer, swimming, and so on. Some children develop the necessary skills quickly, while others might take time to find the right fit for their interests. Parents like to see their children succeed, and maybe extra attention like hiring a trainer or private coaching lessons might take place. But is this extra physical training appropriate for children physically and/or psychologically?? Let’s take a look.
It’s important to clarify right away that strength training, not weight lifting can be beneficial for children. Truth be told: “This can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons and areas of cartilage that haven’t yet turned to bone (growth plates) — especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of weight. For kids, light resistance and controlled movements are best — with a special emphasis on proper technique and safety. Your child can do many strength training exercises with his or her own body weight or inexpensive resistance tubing. Free weights and machine weights are other options” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758). Traditional physical education in schools does implement pushups, sit ups and pullups in the curriculum and specific state standard tests require these components. SO obviously children wouldn’t be put in harm’s way because schools are doing this.
But having an under developed body and power lifting or using excessive weights for resistance is not good for the young body. A child’s body is not designed for these movement patterns yet. It would be hard to pin point a proper age when weight lifting can/should take place, but post puberty would be best. We need our children to be active, but in the proper realm. The benefits of strength training for children are many (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758) :
Done properly, strength training can:
- Increase your child’s muscle strength and endurance
- Help protect your child’s muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
- Improve your child’s performance in nearly any sport, from dancing and figure skating to football and soccer
- Develop proper techniques that your child can continue to use as he or she grows older
Keep in mind that strength training isn’t only for athletes. Even if your child isn’t interested in sports, strength training can:
- Strengthen your child’s bones
- Help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Help your child maintain a healthy weight
- Improve your child’s confidence and self-esteem
In high school, my basketball game was taken to the next level when I did start weight lifting. Not many others girls were doing this, so my strength was noticeable. But I had the supervision and technique in place. Children have to establish the maturity to know pain vs. strain vs. exercise “feel”. Injury at a young start is no good. On our fitness journeys we do want to encourage our children to be active and maybe even participate with us, but understand the do’s and don’ts of course and ask me if you aren’t sure.