Youth Strength Training by E27r96rf


									                                               Youth Strength Training
Stephen M. Pittroff, C.P.T, C.S.N.                    When is it good for your child?

The young athlete in your family is disciplined and devoted, squeezing in practice
whenever he or she can. Now your child wants to start strength training. You’ve heard
coaches and other parents talk about strength training, but you wonder – is strength
training really good for a child?
The answer is yes. Strength training exercises that are supervised, safe and age-
appropriate offer many benefits to young athletes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Collage of Sports Medicine, and
The National Strength and Conditioning Association all support strength training for kids,
if done properly. Today’s children are increasingly overweight and out of shape. Strength
training can help them on the lifetime path to better health and fitness.

Strength training, not weightlifting

Strength training for kids – not to be confused with weightlifting, bodybuilding or
powerlifting – is a carefully designed program of exercises to increase muscle strength
and endurance. Weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting are largely driven by
competition, with participants vying to lift heavier weights or build bigger muscles than
the other athletes. This can put to much strain on young muscles, tendons and growth
plates, especially when proper technique is sacrificed in favor of lifting larger amounts of
Strength training for youth, however, isn’t about lifting the heaviest weight possible.
Instead, the focus is on functional, controlled movements, with a special emphasis on
proper technique and safety.

Strength training for kids has gotten a bad reputation over the years. Lifting weights, for
example, was once thought to damage young growth plates – areas of cartilage that have
not yet turned to bone. Experts now realize that with good technique and the right amount
of resistance, young athletes can avoid growth plate injuries. Strength training exercises,
with proper training and supervision, provide many benefits to a young athlete such as:

    o Increase in muscle strength and endurance
    o Protects your child from muscle and joint injuries
   o   Helps improve Sport’s performance
   o   Better heart and lung function
   o   A healthy body composition
   o   Stronger bones
   o   Lower blood cholesterol levels
   o   Good habit’s to last a lifetime

Some studies suggest that improved self –esteem and a decreased chance of depression
have also been associated with a proper strength-training program.

What age can they start?

Strength training benefits older pre-teens more so than younger kids. At the age of 5 or 6,
kids should be focusing on body awareness and body control, balance, running, jumping
and throwing.
Strength training also helps those kids who have a focused interest in a particular sport.
For example, a basketball player or a dancer who has aspirations of jumping higher can
improve with a proper strength-training program designed to develop the muscles and
energy components responsible for that action. Football players, soccer players,
gymnasts, just about all-young athletes – can enhance their performance with a strength-
training program.
Because technique and proper form are so important, don’t let your child begin strength
training until he or she is mature enough to accept directions. A good rule of thumb is if
your child is old enough to participate in organized sports, he or she is ready for some
form of strength training.

Guidelines for youth strength training

The correct strength-training program for your child isn’t just a scaled down version of
what an adult would do. Many adult programs focus on fewer repetitions, isolation
movements, and heavy weight. (I will address these types of potentially incorrect training
methods in a future article). A correct youth strength-training program needs to focus on:

   o Correct technique
   o Functional, fluid, smooth controlled motions
   o Less resistance and more repetitions

As a Strength and conditioning specialist I have tailored many programs for children
according to their age, size, skill level and sport of interest. The general principles of
youth strength training are:

   o    Provide instruction. Demonstrating and emphasizing controlled breathing and
       proper form. If you enroll your child into a class be conscious of the athlete to
       student ratio to ensure your child receives proper instruction.
    o Supervise. Adult supervision is important to reinforce safety and proper
    o Warm-up; cool-down. Warming up prior to exercise ensures that the muscles are
      warm and ready for action. End each workout with a cool-down period, including
      some light stretching.
    o Controlled movements. Sets done at 12 to 20 repetitions will get the job done.
      Kids don’t need weights or machines especially designed for them. They can
      safely lift adult sized weights as long as the weight isn’t to heavy. The resistance
      doesn’t have to come from weights, either. Body weight and resistance bands can
      be just as effective, often times more effective.
    o Rest between workouts. Establish a rest period of at least a day between strength
      training workouts. Two or three sessions a week are plenty.
    o Track progress. Emphasize the importance of keeping a progress chart or log to
      track weights, repetitions, days worked and exercises performed. This will be
      valuable in the monitoring process.
    o Add resistance gradually. Only when your child masters technique should you
      consider additional weight. If your child cannot do 10 repetitions at a certain
      weight, it’s too heavy.
    o Keep it fun. Variation in a kids (or an adult’s) routine will result in them being
      more likely to stick to it and develop many good habits for their future in the sport
      and in life.

Results wont come overnight. But over time, you and your child will notice a difference
in your child’s muscle strength and endurance.

Stephen M. Pittroff is the owner of, PHIT personal training and performance center in Marysville, Ohio
He has worked with hundreds of athletes of all ages and sport, from beginner to world champions.
He is a highly sought after fitness educator. And conducts private personal training services by
appointment only. He can be reached at,

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