When you say “Weight training” and “Kids” in the same sentence, the majority of parents would respond with, “NO WAY!” The concern for injury is the biggest issue, but parents and coaches need to know that it is OK for pre-adolescents to participate in this type of training, with the correct program and supervision provided.
Weight training is described as the practice of using free weights, weight machines, rubber resistance bands, or body weight to build muscle strength. With resistance, the muscles have to work harder to move. When the muscles work harder, they grow stronger and more efficient. The key to an effective weight training program for children is to ensure proper techniques are being used, and that the child is lifting an appropriate amount of weight.
The goal of strength training for kids is not to bulk up. It should not be confused with weight lifting, bodybuilding, or powerlifting, which are not recommended for pre-adolescent children. Since improvements from strength training come from neuro-muscular development in this age group, pre-adolescence is the ideal time to teach coordination, proper posture and stability.
The trainer should design an individualised program, focussing on strengthening all the major muscle groups and teaching the child correct techniques, safety precautions, how to properly use equipment, and most importantly, addressing the postural imbalances caused by 21st century kids’ lifestyles. Kids as young as 7 or 8 years old can usually do strength training activities (such as push-ups and sit-ups). At Optimum, we generally start taking kids as young as 10 or 11, if they are keen, show interest in improvement and really want to learn.
Specific exercises should be learned without resistance. When proper technique is mastered, small amounts of resistance (body weight, band, or weight) can be added. In general, as kids grow older and stronger, they can gradually increase the amount of resistance they use. Subsequently, weight training programs must be appropriate for the age and development of the child.
With a properly designed and supervised program, the following benefits can occur:
- Improves postural imbalances in the body.
- Developing healthy muscles, joints and bones.
- Improved strength.
- Improved total fitness level.
- Enhanced sports performance.
- Prevention of future injuries and also aiding in recovery.
- Improved bone density.
- Strengthened ligaments and tendons that support the muscles.
If you have any other questions or concerns regarding weight training for your child, please don’t hesitate to ask Optimum staff for advice.