Columnist: Youth strength training has many positives

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Improvements in muscular fitness, body composition, enhanced sports performance, injury prevention, as well as improved self-esteem and socialization skills are all benefits youths get from youth participating in resistance training exercise routines.

Indeed, many the top certification organizations in fitness recommend strength and resistance training to children as young as 8 or 9 — assuming the children are mature enough to follow instructions and basic guidelines.

A few common misconceptions about strength training for youth dating back to the 1970s have made parents, coaches and physical education teachers shy away from implementing strength training programs to children.

Among them were concerns about stunting the growth by damaging growth plates in the long bones of the arms and legs, coupled with fear of tearing tendons or ligaments.

These claims have never been supported by scientific research. But in recent years, research suggests that strength training for youths is beneficial and safe, and a comprehensive resistance training program can reduce sports-related injuries and improve neuromuscular adaptations to physical activities. Before starting your child on an exercise program, check with your pediatrician about concerns or recommendations.

Some things to keep in mind:

Any child participating in strength training needs be supervised by a knowledgeable, qualified instructor.

It is always wise to underestimate the weight load to be used during exercise.

Emphasizing proper form and technique is preferred over heavy loading.

Since most exercise equipment is designed for adults, many prepubescent youth may not be able to use exercise machines safely. In this case body, weight exercises such push-ups, pullups, planks, air squats, as well as exercise bands and dumbbells are a safe alternative.

As with exercise routines for adults a proper warm-up and cool down including stretching and cardiovascular exercises need to be included for programs for the youth.

Never use exercise should never as a form of punishment; rather, it needs to be safe, fun, exciting aspect of a child’s life.

To get started, here a few guidelines provided by the American Council on Exercise:

Begin with two nonconsecutive weight training sessions per week.

Perform eight to 12 strength exercise that work each the major muscle groups.

Using controlled movement speed, lift enough weight for 10-15 repetitions per set. Increase weight by 5 to 10 percent whenever 15 repetitions can be done easily.

Young or old, any type of physical activity has an inherent risk.

A child can roll an ankle while playing with the family dog, just like an adult can suffer a lower back while moving a heavy refrigerator. With proper supervision and programming, youth strength training has a low risk of injury.

With encouragement from parents and instructors, weight training can be a good influence in a child’s life and start a lifelong relationship with physical activity.

Josh Klingenberg, a personal trainer at the Walla Walla YMCA, is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and CrossFit.

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