Is strength training safe for children?
How does strength training work?
In younger children who are pre-pubertal, strength training works by increasing the number of nerve connections so that when your body fire’s a muscle contraction, it will be more powerful. Your muscles don’t actually “get big” or hypertrophy until puberty when your body’s hormone levels start to increase. Some adolescents who want to body-build may not see the outcome they want if their body has not reached the right stage of puberty yet. Sometimes we have to be patient and wait for our body to develop at its own pace. It is never recommended to take any performance-enhancing drugs or steroids to help build muscle.
Who can participate in strength training?
It is safe for a child to participate in strength training if they are developmentally able to participate in sports. This is usually around the ages of 5-7 but may vary based on a child’s development.
If you have a child with underlying cardiac, respiratory, or genetic conditions, it is important to talk with their doctor before starting any type of exercise program to make sure it is safe.
What type of strength training can my child do?
Since there are many types of strength training, it is important that all activities be age-appropriate. All strength training programs should be done under the supervision of a trained professional and using proper technique. A program for younger children will usually include more bodyweight exercises. When it is appropriate to add weights into the program, it is recommended to first master the technique of the exercise before adding weight. The amount of weight can gradually be increased to achieve your fitness goals, but this should always be done in a controlled setting with your trainer. It is not safe to start or change training programs in home gyms without professional supervision.
What are the benefits of strength training?
There are many benefits to strength training. Not only can it improve motor skill performance, speed and power, strength training can also reduce the risk of injury. It is important that children build up enough muscle to be able to keep up with increasing training demands in modern-day sports. For example, a softball or baseball pitcher who does a lot of overhand throwing would benefit from shoulder resistance exercises to avoid common injuries seen with this type of activity.
Strength training can also improve cardiovascular fitness, bone mineral density, and body composition and reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol and diabetes. This can be a great way to encourage overweight children, who would be less likely to participate in an aerobic exercise program, to increase their overall activity level. After they see some lifestyle improvements from strength training, they will be more likely to continue a program. Aerobic activity can then be gradually introduced because an ideal exercise program includes both aerobic and strength training exercises.
Will strength training stunt my child’s growth?
One common misconception regarding strength training is that it will stunt your child’s growth but this is not true! Recent data has shown that well-designed strength training programs have not had any negative effects on growth plate health or linear growth in children.
It is safe for school-aged children to participate in strength training as part of a developmentally appropriate and comprehensive training program if they are well supervised and practicing proper technique.
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