03 Aug Let the kids play!
There are many people who believe the gym is not a place for kids. ‘They aren’t physically ready’ or the all-time favourite ‘weight training stunts their growth’ are the cries. While it’s true that performing movements incorrectly, or unnecessarily overloading the weights used can be dangerous – this can be true for anyone that chooses to weight train – not just kids specifically.
It’s an interesting topic when we consider that research not only renders many of these old wives tales untrue, but that there are some amazing benefits of correctly applying weight training to children and teens. Muscle size won’t necessarily be affected until puberty hits, but strength levels can indeed be improved from a neural capacity and mobility can be enhanced. This of course, must be applied under direct supervision by a qualified professional – but with all the correct attributes in place, there can be some truly positive benefits achieved.
It’s an interesting thing to hear parents of children who participate in team sports, pass off scratches, bruises or more significant injury as ‘just part of the game’. But these same parents often ridicule the use of weight training, believing it to be a dangerous, unnecessary evil that “stunts growth”. This isn’t actually a fault of the parents – but often is more related to outdated ideas and lack of education and resources around the topic.
The truth is, that correctly applied weight training in younger populations has one of the lowest incidences of injury when compared to other sports or activities (Lloyd.R, Faigenbaum. A, et al 2014). Because of the learning curve involved with many exercises, the body will adapt to these movements gradually, which in turn can make the children more robust and actually resilient from injury – particularly when used in conjunction with playing other sports.
By finding a qualified professional who can choose a tailored exercise selection, while progressing loads and movements gradually and appropriately, the addition of some resistance based exercise in youths has some huge benefits. It will build a great foundation to promote excellent strength adaptations and more efficient movement patterns, which will assist in everyday activity as well as sports performance – currently and for future development.
John Vincenti- WESTSTAR strength and conditioning coach.