What exactly is strength training?
Strength training, or resistance training, is a way to increase muscular strength where levels of resistance are increased over time. It can be done with free weights, weight machines and resistance bands. Strength training can also be performed with activities like tug of war or climbing in the playground where resistance is provided by the child’s own body weight.
Is it safe?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics strength training is safe for children when specific guidelines are followed. Strength training can
be unsafe for children when unsupervised. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reports that most injuries related to strength training occur while children are at home unsupervised. Injury rates are much lower with supervision and knowledge of appropriate technique. Children should avoid body building, power lifting and maximal lifts, but that does not mean they cannot perform other strength training or weight lifting exercises.
Guidelines proposed by:
The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and The National Strength and Conditioning Association.
1. An evaluation should be performed by a pediatrician or family physician.
2. Supervision is always required by an instructor with an approved strength-training certification with an instructor to student ratio of 1:10.
3. It is recommended that strength training should start after the child has postural control and good balance, usually around 7 or 8 years old.
4. A 10-15 minute warm up and cool down must be done before and after every session.
5. Always begin with low resistance until technique is perfected.
6. When 8-15 reps can be performed properly, weight should be added in 10% increments.
7. Include all muscle groups, and perform the exercise through full range of motion. Workouts should last 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times/week (more than 4 X/week can increase injury risk).
8. Remember to also include an aerobic component to any exercise routine. The Journal for the America Academy for Pediatrics also reports that children will benefit more from participating in sports than from strength training alone. For maximal health benefits, strength training should done along with an aerobic training program.
Some benefits from strength training include:
– Improved sports performance
– Increased bone mineral density
– Improved cardiovascular fitness
– Improved posture
– Improved body image
– Improved motor skills
Won’t strength training stunt my child’s growth? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there is no evidence that supports stunted growth in kids who strength train in a safe and supervised environment. Strength training programs have no documented effects on growth. That does not include competitive weight lifting however, the American Academy of Pediatrics is more cautious when weight lifting is competitive and does not recommend power lifting, maximum lifts and body building for children.
Children are unable to increase muscle strength due to low testosterone levels. Children can still become stronger from strength training without the muscle hypertrophy that adults will have (bulkiness). Strength gains will still occur through an increase in motor neuron firing with each muscle contraction. In simpler terms, the brain will send more signals to use that muscle and therefore the muscle contraction will be stronger.