By Angela Bekkala
Soure: Active Kids
“I want to be strong like Mom.”
My heart nearly exploded when I first heard my daughter say those words. Since birth, she and her brother have seen my husband and I exercise. Whether it’s running, yoga, cycling or strength training, they want to get in on the action.
Getting kids interested in exercise early is essential, because it can help build a life-long love of being active. Strength training is a vital part of that exercise, no matter what their passion ends up being.
There are many benefits of strength training for kids
Increases muscle strength and endurance
Helps promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Helps maintain a healthy weight
Increases confidence and self-esteem
Helps protect muscles and joints from sports-related injuries
Improves sport performance
But is strength training safe for kids? Of course it is! But as with every activity, there are guidelines to follow to ensure every kid stays safe and injury free.
Kids as young as 7 years old can begin a strength training routine. As with any exercise program, be sure to check with your child’s physician before starting a strength training program, especially if your child has a known ailment such as a heart condition, high blood pressure or seizures. Proper instruction on form and adult supervision is needed at all times.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when first beginning a strength training routine, light weights with full range of motion and 8 to 15 repetitions should be performed. Include all major muscle groups of the body, including the core. Weight training programs must be appropriate for the age and development of the child.
A strength training routine should first include a warm up of 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen up the muscles (jumping rope or walking are great options). The strength portion should only be abut 20 to 30 minutes, and can be performed two to three times per week with at least one full day in between sessions.
Remember: Kids are not small versions of adults and should not be doing the same workout. Here are a few suggestions based on the age of your child.
Ages 7 and Older
Bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, planks, burpees, mountain climbers and pull-ups are appropriate for any age without a load of extra resistance. This is a starting point for any age before progressing to weight training using free weights.
Once the child has correct form and the basics of bodyweight strength training, free weights may be used. Great exercises for this age are bicep curl, triceps extension, shoulder press, squats with a weight or bar, and chest press with a weight or bar. If you have access to youth-sized strength training equipment, that is a good option. Use caution when using adult-sized strength training machines, and make sure the child fits the equipment.
Ages 13 and Older
This is when you can start more advanced strength training or sport-specific conditioning. The emphasis should always be on safety first, but also building self-esteem and a life-long habit. Olympic lifts like clean and press and barbell snatch are great exercises if you or someone you trust is comfortable teaching proper technique.