Most parents would agree that children should engage in all kinds of aerobic activities like footy, soccer, dancing, martial arts and athletics and they also agree that these sports can be started at from young age. It’s when we ask parents if they think their children should engage in weight and strength training that we tend to receive a more negative response. I’m here to break through the controversy and find out if our children should be weight training and what would this involve.
Many paediatrician’s and fitness experts agree that strength training is actually good for children and is something that can be incorporated easily into a child’s exercise plan. It’s important to note that strength training works differently on a child compared to an adult, a child will increase strength and endurance but will not become big and bulky like an adult male would.
Government guidelines actually recommended strength training for children aged 5years and up for at least three days a week alongside aerobic sports. This doesn’t mean you should head out and buy a home gym for your child, strength training activities depend on age and ability and can include body weighty exercises, and weights should only be added once the child can perform the exercise correctly and safely. These recommendations come from the large amount of evidence that shows that stronger kids have a healthier heart, lower body fat, stronger bones and higher self-esteem. Starting strength training younger also allows for easier muscle development at a later age and a healthier outlook on life that will stick to children when entering adulthood.
Where to start?
It’s a good idea to start with body weight exercises such as:
- Mountain climbers
- Bear crawls
- Chin ups
When a child is old enough, and they have mastered the body weight exercises you can look at adding weights to the squats and lunges and then moving on to free weight exercises such as:
- bicep curls
- shoulder press
- Tricep kickbacks
Please note that maximal weights carried to failure should NOT be performed by children until at least 16 years of age and only then with proper instruction from a professional trainer. Warmups and cooldowns are always recommended to prevent injury. Keep it fun!
#1 High injury risk
The risk of injury is high when a child engages in weight and strength training that is unsupervised. Just like adults children need to know the correct way to perform strength training exercises, and they should only be performing age appropriate training. When performed correctly the incidence of injury from strength training is actually lower than the risk of injury when playing football and other contact sports.
#2 lifting stunts growth
This myth is based on the belief that weight training damages growth plates. Growth plates ar4e the cartilage growing areas at the end of long bones in children, when children get older these harden into bone. While injuries to these growth plates are actually quite common it is not weight training that is to blame, the fact that they are soft just leaves them more susceptible to injury, which can happen from any activity. The baseline is that as long as the exercise is performed correctly and is age appropriate there is not risk of stunted growth.
Despite popular belief strength training is actually a healthy and important part of your child’s development and can create a fun bonding experience between you and you kids.
So work out a training plan and help your child to live a happier, healthier and stronger life!