The American College of Sports Medicine has released new recommendations on strength training for kids and they say it’s in, it’s got the tick, it’s kosher and it’s ready to go! This includes strength training with kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells and medicine balls.
Where previous recommendations have downplayed the importance of strength training these new guidelines represent a big turnaround. Where researchers had previously feared that strength training with heavy weights could lead to fractures and damage to the boney end plates of young spines, the zones where they grow the most, we now recognise that problems aren’t really occurring here and that the benefits outweigh the risks.
So what are these benefits you may ask? Well, strength training transfers well to sports like sprinting and jumping. It’s not hard to imagine a pair of stronger legs with bigger muscles propelling you higher over that high jump or bar or further down the footy field. There seems to be an effect that translates to over all sports performance increase and there is a suggestion that younger athletes that incorporate strength training into their routines will end up owning stronger bones, ligaments and tendons and therefore receive fewer injuries to them. Even better for health, it may encourage some children who are struggling with obesity, making them feel more physically capable and confident. Nature didn’t build everyone to run marathons, we might have been doing the wrong thing by some of our natural born weight lifters all these years.
But what should we look for in a kid’s strength program? What are the signs of a trainer who knows what they are doing when it comes to kids training?
It may be good to go younger but this is the group where benefits can really be observed. Younger than this and we still have to say we’re just not really sure yet.
Trainers should have an understanding of the physical and emotional maturity of the age groups they are working with. These will be very different than with adults.
While it might not be uncommon to see an adult weightlifter completing 5 sets of 5 repetitions, kids might thrive on something different. A good place to start might be 2 sets of 10 repetitions. Here we’re looking for accuracy with movements and increases in skill, rather than big gains in weights. We will add repetitions and sets before we add weight to a given movement.
A well set out safety policy is a must and training kids in safety procedures should feature somewhere too.
As always variation will make any program more fun and you should find a trainer you trust and one that you and your child are comfortable with, so that you can realise all the benefits.
Author bio: Michael O’Doherty is a Doctor of Chiropractic at Chiropractic Moves, He’s dedicated to providing the most effective and up to date treatment techniques available in a friendly and relaxed environment and passionate about the role of chiropractic care in the management of sports injuries and optimising performance.