(Photo above is of my 15 year old son on the right with his 15 year old friend on the left)
Today’s children are offered a world of opportunity when it comes to learning and participating in sports. From the age of four years, parents are enthusiastically signing-up their children for gymnastics, soccer, tee-ball, football, track and field, figure skating, hockey, basketball, horseback riding, and so many other wonderful possibilities. Playing sports allows for the development of motor coordination and skills, balance, grace, speed, endurance, and strength. What most parents do not consider, however, is allowing their children to participate in strength training. One of the first questions asked by a parent when strength training is presented as a viable and healthy option for their child is, “Is it safe?” With the participation in any sport comes the risk of injury, sometimes severe. No sport is free of risk. With the sport of strength training comes the opportunity for very positive benefits that far outweigh any risk for injury. In fact, the number one benefit of weight training is its protective advantage.
1) Can protect a child from sports-related injuries including muscle and joint injuries, strains and sprains, and broken bones.
2) Increases a child's muscle strength and endurance.
3) Improves a child's performance in virtually every sport.
4) Develops proper techniques, bodily control, and balance that a child will benefit from well into their adult years.
5) Helps a child learn to follow directions.
The Mayo Clinic has this to express about strength training for children:
"Strength training for kids? You bet! Done properly, strength training offers many benefits to young athletes. Strength training is even a good idea for kids who simply want to look and feel better. In fact, strength training might put your child on a lifetime path to better health and fitness.
"Don't confuse strength training with weightlifting, bodybuilding or powerlifting. These activities are largely driven by competition, with participants vying to lift heavier weights or build bigger muscles than those of other athletes. 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.
"Keep in mind that strength training isn't only for athletes. Even if your child isn't interested in sports, strength training can:
1) Strengthen your child's bones
2) Help promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
3) Help your child maintain a healthy weight
4) Improve your child's confidence and self-esteem."
When is the best time for a child to begin a strength training program? A child can and should begin strength training at the age of 7 or 8 years when their posture has matured. Starting a child early in strength training allows for the benefits to carry over well into their adult years!
What is the best way to begin a child in strength training? Contact a professional, such as my husband or myself, who has experience and education in training children. Children are not small adults and cannot be trained as such. It is imperative to have an educated trainer.
I have been blessed with having my sons follow in my fitness footsteps. I know first hand the benefits of childhood strength training!