Wednesday September 23 2020
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Is Strength Training for Your Child?

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You want your young athlete to be safe out on the field or court. What parent doesn’t?

While you can’t prevent every injury, you can reduce your child’s risk by helping him or her increase muscle strength and flexibility through a proper strength training program.

Many used to think strength training was unsafe and ineffective for children. But studies now show the opposite. Proper training does improve strength and does not cause injury or decrease a child’s flexibility. Some studies suggest that early strength training actually leads to stronger bones in adulthood. 

Today, organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Sports Medicine support strength training for children.

What strength training is not
Strength training is not about lifting large amounts of weight. It is not about seeing who is strongest – such as in weight training or power lifting.

Strength training, also called “resistance training,” is about improving musculoskeletal strength and enhancing athletic performance. Sometimes it may require using weights or resistance bands. Other times it may mean doing sit-ups, push-ups and leg curls without weights.

The right age to start
If your 7- or 8-year-old is ready for organized sports such as Little League or gymnastics, then he or she is ready for some type of strength training program.

Before starting, your child should understand the goals of the program. Make sure he or she has realistic expectations. Strength training isn’t intended to produce bulky muscles!

Plus, he or she should be prepared physically. See the pediatrician for the go-ahead to start training. And make sure your child eats a healthy, balanced diet to fuel him or her for exercise.

How to begin
Turn to an adult experienced in youth strength training, such as a coach or teacher, to develop and monitor your child’s workouts. Training programs aren’t one-size-fits-all. They should be tailored to each child’s needs and abilities.

But there are some common guidelines:
• Children should train two to three times per week, on nonconsecutive days. Remember, strength training is just one part of a total fitness program. Encourage children to participate in a variety of sports and activities.
• They should warm up and stretch before every session.
• Proper exercise techniques are important. Keep in mind that children learn best by doing. So, show them the technique, and then closely supervise them to ensure they’re doing the exercise correctly.
• Push-ups and sit-ups are great for beginners. A combination of exercises can enhance their workouts and prevent them from getting bored with the same routines.
• Beginners should do six to eight exercises (10¬-15 repetitions of each) to build muscle groups in the upper and lower body. They should be doing more repetitions with lighter weights.

Strength training not only can keep young athletes healthier and safer now but prepare them for a lifetime of good fitness.

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