Youths, Why They Shouldn’t Resist Resistance Training
I was in the gym the other day working out and
looked around like usual to notice other people’s training routines. Usually I see the same people doing the same thing
as they were doing two months ago. This particular time I noticed a family huddled around a lat-pulldown machine. The father
was doing his exercise while the mother and son stood watching. I found myself to be almost shocked in horror as the older
man performed behind-the-neck lat-pulldowns.
Ok, so that exercise may not warrant me yelling
out “Hey bozo! Do you want to destroy your rotator cuff?” Surely, he wouldn’t want my input, especially
in front of his family. But, I had to look over every few seconds for the little son’s safety. It’s not that resistance
training is bad for kids. In fact recent evidence suggests it’s very beneficial.
Resistance training can increase muscular strength
and endurance, reduce the risk of injuries from activity, and improve motor skills (2). While it’s been known for years
that resistance training for adults can help prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density, recent findings suggest
that children can have the same benefit as well (1).
Getting back to the family I previously mentioned.
Normally, I’ll leave adults alone while they’re working out. But, I felt obligated this time for the child’s
safety. Luckily, the kid was just watching. But, I have to wonder if this will predispose him to bad technique when lifting
later in life.
The important thing is the son, around 10 to
12 years of age, didn’t hurt himself. Maybe this is where the belief began that children shouldn’t lift weights.
Improper instruction and supervision have lead to numerous injuries of adults, yet we don’t say that they shouldn’t
lift weights. Then why is it that we treat children differently? If proper form is taught and technique supervised; then the
chance of injury for both adults and children is drastically reduced.
Another area of concern in the past was growth
plate damage. During youth, bone formation occurs in the shaft of a long bone and in growth cartilage. There are three parts
to the growth cartilage; growth plate, joint surface, and the apophyseal insertions of the muscle-tendon units (1). It was
once thought that weight-lifting could cause repetitive stress damage to a growth plate. If this were to occur then permanent
growth disturbances would occur.
However, back to my earlier point, if the child
is properly supervised by a qualified trainer then this argument of growth plate damage fails. A qualified trainer should
take into account the child’s; biological age, a measure of maturation rather than strict biological age which is based
on age in years; training age, length of time the child has been doing resistance training; and their maturity level (2).
By taking into account the above factors the risk of injury from lifting can be near zero. Other components that should be
carefully controlled are; load, amount of weight lifted; volume, total amount of weight lifted in a session; and recovery,
the time off from exercise so the body can recuperate.
Another area in which attention should be given
is when one first introduces resistance training to a child. It is by far better to underestimate the load and volume than
it is to overdo it. One can always incrementally progress over time, but if too much is done too soon injury can occur which
can possibly be life altering for the child.
In today’s society we as professionals
need to expose our youth to as many training modalities as possible early on. Obesity among the adult population is rampant
and the same is true for our youth. Within the past few decades the rate of overweight and obese kids has tripled. According
to Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Super Size Me” if left as it is, one in every three kids born in the year
2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. That is absolutely horrifying when diabetes can be prevented by a large degree
through lifestyle choices.
Our kids need to be taught positive exercise
habits now so that it becomes like breathing to them. The longer a person waits to make exercise a daily routine the harder
it will be. Just imagine how many people don’t partake in daily exercise because they’ve committed so much time
to other duties. Sadly across our nation more and more schools are cutting gym classes to make room for more “educational”
classes. It’s sad to think that our youth will grow up smart, but fat!
Let’s drop the notion that resistance training
is a no-no when it comes to children. With the proper program design and supervision a qualified trainer can help any kid
improve their performance or increase overall quality of life.
Mark Shields is an Exercise Science major at Frostburg State University and is an author
of 2 books and 3 DVD’s. His latest program Ultimate Guide: How To Live In A Body YOU Love! is receiving amazing reviews.
He is passionate to help people reach their goals and live a healthier life. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hall, Susan. Basic Biomechanics.