Don’t confuse strength training with weightlifting. These activities are 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 bodyweights 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.
When 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
When to start ?
As early as age 7 or 8, strength training can become a valuable part of an overall fitness plan — as long as the child is mature enough to follow directions and practice proper technique and form.
What exercises to do ?
Body weight exercises should be performed slowly and under control to get the best results and avoid injury. It is especially important to control the downward (with gravity) movement.
Body weight training – Arm
Body weight training – Core
Body weight training – legs
Straight Leg Raise
Calf Raise with a bent knee
Things to note :
- Stress proper technique. Rather than focusing on the number of repetition your child can perform, stress proper form and technique during each exercise. Your child can gradually increase the resistance or number of repetitions as he or she gets older.
- Supervise. Adult supervision by someone who knows proper strength training technique is an important part of youth strength training. Don’t let your child go it alone.
- Rest between workouts. Make sure your child rests at least one full day between exercising each specific muscle group. Two or three strength training sessions a week are plenty.
- Keep it fun. Help your child vary the routine to prevent boredom.
Eventually, however, your child will notice a difference in muscle strength and endurance — which might fuel a fitness habit that lasts a lifetime !
Most of all, make it fun!