Strength in children and adolescents
Talking about strength training in children is still a taboo subject.
Pre-pubertal strength training and risk of injury
The purpose of the above numbers and studies is not to denigrate any sport, or to insinuate fears that have no reason to exist, but to show how each activity has its own risk indexes, which increase significantly if those who manage it are not a competent person.
The benefits of strength training in prepubertal age
- Helps prevent injuries. Muscle strengthening alone will not eliminate them completely (since they have multifactorial causes) but will certainly reduce their incidence: to avoid injuries to LCA in football, sessions of strength combined with plyometric exercises are recommended. Great benefit can be found for the rotator cuff muscles in sports such as swimming, baseball, tennis, and so on.
- It improves the athletic skills of those who practice it, however, is not directly related to the improvement of performance, which depends heavily on the coordination and proper execution of the technical gesture.
- The best state of health achieved by training against resistance can also be maintained more easily by adults.
- Aerobic workouts combined with strength training have a better impact on children's bodies in terms of weight loss.
- Strengthens bones by promoting proper development.
- Increases confidence and self-esteem.
After 8-12 weeks of training, strength in children can increase from 30 to 50%, thanks to neuromuscular adaptations.
Guidelines for strength training
- Before starting any kind of sport activity, contact your paediatrician, if you have the knowledge to evaluate the training that will be followed by the child. Alternatively, go to the sports doctor.
- There is no correct age to begin with. The child is required to be able to listen to his/her teacher and to follow the training independently. Generally, this happens around the age of 7-8 years.
- Each workout should include 5 to 10 minutes of both warm-up and after the workout.
- Focus on technical skill before loading, stop the exercise as soon as you notice errors in the execution of movements.
- Part of the training should focus on proprioception, balance and strengthening of the core muscles. Always start with simple exercises and stable surfaces (although soft to avoid risks in case of falls) and then increase the difficulty to use proprioceptive boards, bosu, etc..
- Training should take place 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days, using 8-12 exercises that include muscle groups from the whole body. Always start with exercises involving large muscle groups, and then devote yourself to the rest.
- Give the same emphasis to both flexor and extensor muscles, both at the top and bottom of the body.
- 1-2 series for 8-15 repetitions per muscle group are sufficient, with at least one minute of recovery. If you are unable to perform at least 8 repetitions you must decrease the load to gradually increase it when you have had strength gains. Once you have done 15 repetitions with good form, you may want to increase the overload of the exercise by increasing it from 5 to 10%.
- All major muscle groups should be included in the training program and the child should be trained in the full range of possible movements for each joint.
- Stopping strength training programs, even when you resume your sport, leads to a gradual decrease in strength until your child fully regresses to pre-workout levels (after 8 weeks).
Each workout should include 5 to 10 minutes of both warm-up and cool-down.
- Training strength during specific sports training will not give the same advantages as when special sessions are dedicated.
- To improve general fitness state it is always better to perform both aerobic and counter-resistance training.
- Any signs of injury or illness resulting from strength training must be evaluated by a specialist before training can resume.
Strength for children, safe workouts
In short, learning to lift a weight correctly and perform strength exercises will teach the child to move more consciously, and will ensure a more solid muscles that can withstand the trauma, often unexpected, to which it may incur.