A lot of parents are not aware of the benefits of strength training for children. This revolves around exercises that progressively increase in resistance. With the increased resistance of each exercise, the child increases his or her strength levels. Strength training is often used interchangeably with resistance training and weight training.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the wide acceptance of strength training by prestigious organizations as a safe and beneficial exercise for pre-adolescent and adolescent children.
What the Experts Say about Strength Training for Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a position statement where it supports strength training for children. It states that in addition to the obvious goal of getting stronger, strength training programs may be undertaken to improve sports performance, rehabilitate injuries, prevent injuries, and enhance long-term health.
The American Council on Exercise has also made a positive stand on strength training for children.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recognizes that the many benefits associated with adult resistance training programs are also attainable by children and adolescents. The NSCA made this stand in its 2009 position statement. The NSCA based this position statement paper on a comprehensive analysis of scientific evidence about the anatomical, physiological, and psychosocial effects of youth resistance training.
The position statement was reviewed by an expert panel of exercise scientists, physicians, and physical education teachers. These experts had a background in clinical, practical, and research expertise of issues related to pediatric exercise science, sports medicine and resistance training.
The NSCA position stand made reference to children in the pre-adolescence and adolescence stage. This was for boys up to the age of 11 and girls up to the age of 13. Adolescence referred to boys between the age of 14 to 18 and girls between the age of 12 to 18.
The American College of Sports Medicine also supports resistance training for children. In their quarterly publication of fall 2002, the authors stated that many seven and eight year old boys and girls have benefited from strength training. The author saw no reason younger children could not take part in strength training such as push-ups and sit-ups if they can safely do the exercises and follow instructions.
Weight resistance training for children should be focused on light weight exercises with dumbbells and machines. Bodyweight exercises could also be done if the child has the strength to do so. The challenge with overweight and obese children is that their bodies are too heavy and they severely lack strength. As such, there is lesser risk of injury by starting on light dumbbells.
The Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology states that there is no minimum age for starting strength training for children. However, the training and instruction must be appropriate for children and adolescents, involving a proper warm-up, cool-down, and proper choice of exercises.
It is recommended that low to moderate intensity resistance exercise should be done 2-3 times/week on non-consecutive days, with 1-2 sets initially, progressing to 4 sets of 8-15 repetitions for 8-12 exercises.
Strength Training Should be Promoted to Children
The advantages of resistance training for children is clear from the wide acceptance from respected organizations. Resistance training for children can and should be used to enhance health and fight child obesity.