Children and strength training are a good fit. The benefits have been documented — decreased injuries in sports and recreational activities, improved motor skills, increased bone mineral density.
At what age can a child start?
Bob Davis works with kids as young as 10 at Strength of America in Mesa. But Davis, former strength and conditioning assistant coach for the University of Nebraska, said it is not about reaching some magical age that makes a child ready for strength training. It’s more about maturity level: Is the youngster old enough to take instruction? Davis trains 75 youths, ages 10 to 15, on proper strength-training techniques. Some youngsters are there because of sports. Others just want to be fit.
“Strength training is a positive lifestyle choice like keeping your portions down, drinking lots of water and getting enough sleep,” says Davis.
At least part of the exercise prescription for youth athletes and health seekers is the same — an activityspecific warm-up of five to 10 minutes followed by 30 to 45 minutes of resistance training followed by stretching, a form of injury prevention. For improvement gains, youngsters should lift two times a week for 30 to 45 minutes. Two to three exercises per large muscle group is the goal, as is two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
“Form is always the most important aspect of strength training,” says Davis. “If you cannot do 10 repetitions with proper form, reduce the weight.”
Common areas of weakness for youth include the quadriceps, muscles on the front of the upper leg; abdominals, muscles important to posture and the prevention of back injuries; and deltoids, traps and lats, muscles of the upper body. Additionally, knowing appropriate stretching techniques after a workout is important in preventing injury.
Exercises addressing common areas of youth weakness, as well as stretches, will be demonstrated throughout March as part of the Tribune’s Exercise of the Week series.