Weight Training Programs
Ages 6 to 18
Exercise is just as important for children as it is for adults. When kids build muscle it helps raise their metabolism. That means while they're sitting in class, in front of the television or a computer, their bodies are naturally burning more calories than someone who hasn't worked out.
It's a myth that lifting weights will stunt a child's growth or increase their risk of injury. A game of football, soccer or baseball will put much more stress on a young body than any well-executed lift could.
Resistance training has been shown to build stronger bones, enhance coordination, develop self-confidence and even help improve test scores. The key is to design programs that are age and experience level appropriate. Following are some ranges and guidelines to give you ideas.
Ages 6-10 are in the INTRODUCTION stage. Low-intensity programs are ideal. The most important things for children to learn at this age are proper form, how to have fun and how to maintain a complete range of motion. Heavy weights should not be emphasized during these years because the muscles have not sufficiently developed. Focus more on bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and bodyweight squats.
If your child is overweight or obese, resist the urge to simply increase their cardio activities. Overweight children tend to respond better to resistance training programs over cardio because they can usually lift more weight than their lighter peers. Plus, endurance isn't a necessary requirement. That doesn't mean you should ignore aerobic activities, just that it shouldn't be the only exercise kids are getting.
Ages 11-14 are in the ATHLETIC FORMATION stage. At this point, it's a good idea to start using some weights. Children who fail a pull-up test, may find they can succeed with just a few weeks of proper barbell training.
Begin with core muscles including abs, hips, glutes and lower back. As children advance, they can start doing workouts that use dumbbells, machines designed for youth and lighter weight medicine balls. Exercises that involve balance and coordination are good for this age range as well. To be safe always use a spotter, especially when performing exercises where weight is lifted over the head.
Ages 15-18 have entered the SPECIALIZATION stage. Teens can begin using standard-sized machines, exercises with barbells and programs that really concentrate on specific muscle groups. Be careful, extremely active teens may over-commit themselves. Make sure that gym teachers, coaches and trainers are working together coordinating exercise activities to avoid overuse injuries. Between 30% and 60% of adolescent injuries are attributable to overuse.
Avoid extreme exercises like one rep max lifts, century sets or pyramiding type workouts until after the age of 18. Do not engage in weight lifting competitions. The challenge should be for each child to see individual improvement, not measuring themselves against their peers.
Remember that children progress and mature at different speeds. A 10-year old child that's been exercising for 2 years may be in the athletic formation stage, while a 16-year old teenager just starting out may be in the introduction stage. Keep their abilities in mind as you move them from one level to the next.
Don't use guilt or blame as a motivator for overweight children. The primary responsibility lies with the parent or head of household. Adults are the ones who provide the food, motivation and direct physical activities. If you've got an overweight or obese child, YOU need to start making changes and set an exercise example.
For best results, follow these additional rules.
- Before beginning any diet or exercise program, your child must have a thorough medical examination by a doctor or health care professional.
- Limit sessions to 20 or 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week and insist on a proper warm-up first.
- Use a coach or certified personal trainer to teach proper form. Don't pass your bad habits onto your kids.
The youth of today may be the first generation in history to live shorter lives because of weight-related health problems. Don't let that happen to your children.
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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.