Just as a lot of women are afraid of strength training, assuming that it will make them huge and bulky, adults often fear that strength training is unsafe for kids and may also stunt their growth. So, let’s start off by first debunking this popular myth.
Will strength training stunt growth?
The amount of shear force that needs to be produced on a child’s growth plates to actually affect them is extremely high. So if you’re squatting 500 pounds or benching 600 pounds, then yes, you might end up damaging your growth plates. But if you’re an 8 year old and you are able to lift that much weight, then congratulations! You are the strongest kid alive. You’re in fact stronger than most adults. So for a child who’s starting off with strength training, a very light approach would be advisable.
A safe strength training program should be scaled down by an experienced trainer that involves teaching your child the proper techniques, safety precautions and proper use of equipment. A basic bodyweight program can be performed by children safely which includes exercises such as push ups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, lunges, etc.
So let’s discuss a list of DOs and DONTs for children engaging in strength training.
• A child should be mature enough to respond to the coaching advice.
• A child should be supervised at all times during his/her strength training session.
• A child should not be allowed to perform maximal or even near maximal lifts. In other words, more emphasis should be put on lighter weights and more repetitions(more than 8)
• Growing children are more susceptible to injuries because their muscular systems are still undeveloped. Due to this cheating or sacrificing form/technique for reaching rep targets should be avoided.
• The instructor to child ratio should be no more than 1:5.
• No more than three sessions per week on non-consecutive days would be sufficient.
• Children should be encouraged to properly warm up by jogging for 10 minutes before each session and cool down by including a stretching routine at the end of each workout.
• External resistance or load should not be added unless the child has mastered proper technique.
• A trainer with no past experience or certification should not be allowed to train a child.
• A child should never be de-motivated and should be commended for putting in great effort.
• A child who is not interested should never be forced to strength train.
• Any form of strength training should not be incorporated without proper nutrition and hydration.
Make sure that your child is having fun. But eventually your child will notice changes in strength and muscle composition which may fuel a fitness habit of a lifetime.
“Indeed, the greatest gift a parent can give to their child is the gift of health.”
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