There are two types of resistance training that often get confused with one another…weight lifting and strength training. I define weight lifting as when someone lifts external weights or objects other than ones own body weight, and strength training as when you apply resistance against a muscle. Both these terms are synonymous in that they describe resistance against a muscle. Push-ups and pull-ups for example are strength training (not weight lifting). The bench press is weight lifting, which is also strength training. Both have similar effects on muscles in terms of stress but the bench press is a higher risk exercise that uses an external weight for resistance.
The bottom line is that resistance training is safe for kids, but it has to be the proper amount and supervised by a professional. The exercise resistance also has to meet the child’s specific needs and performance level. Infants begin strength training as babies when they lay on their stomach and work to lift their head to look up. They are strengthening their neck extensor muscles. The same thing happens when they crawl and eventually walk. The worst thing for our kids is not to use muscles and sit around on the couch all day. Kids can start strength training with their own bodyweight as young as 5 or 6 years old. This is when many youth start martial arts training and begin performing different types of bodyweight strength training exercises.
To help enhance bodyweight strength training, you can add external resistance, such as medicine balls, kettle bells and dumbbells. If you ask your child to carry a gallon of milk up the stairs, this is weight training in my book. There is an external resistance that puts extra stress on muscles in addition to their own body weight. The same concept would apply if a child had a 5 LB dumbbell in their hands, hanging between their legs and performed squats. With the proper supervision, you can perform these types of exercises with children between 7-10 years old. However, a great deal depends on the child’s attention span, current fitness level and desire.
The most important thing for our kids is to MOVE their muscles against some type of moderate resistance. The benefits of a well-structured exercise program for children are well documented. By adding a safe resistance to movement, either by utilizing their own body weight, or an external weighted object, you will see your child’s risk of injury go down, strength go up and on-field performance improve. And as a reminder, any program that incorporates resistance with weighted objects should always be performed with a qualified professional.
Ask your Parisi Performance Coach about how you can get your child enrolled in one of our training programs. Strength is the foundation to improving Sprinting Speed and Confidence.